Sustainability needs to be custom-sized: what is sustainable for one process or one product might not be the best fit for the next. At Ahlstrom-Munksjö, we aim to find the best solutions for each specific product or solution we provide.
This last chapter in our article series “Ahlstrom-Munksjö Specialties sustainability journey” focuses on how our plants are adapting their manufacturing processes to optimize the resources and materials we use to manufacture our products using the waste pyramid principles “Reduce, reuse, recycle”.
Recycling polypropylene waste in our Mundra, India plant
Recycling waste is one of the best ways to help our environment: reprocessing materials that would otherwise be discarded is a fundamental component of environmental sustainability and has numerous advantages, of both ecological and economical nature: new job opportunities, energy saving, air and water pollution reduction, decrease in the level of emissions, to name a few. Additionally, it allows reprocessing finite resources and conserving precious assets for future generations.
The manufacturing site in Mundra, India is located in the most industrially developed state of the country, Gujarat. The facility is focused on the production of medical applications such as surgical drapes and gowns, scrub suits and high-performance sterilization wraps, all of which are 100% based on SMS (Spunbond Meltblown Spundbond) material, entirely composed of polypropylene (PP).
This material is known for being highly versatile. Most importantly, it has many beneficial physical properties and can be completely recycled. Our Mundra plant started to investigate in 2017 how and to which extent PP could be recycled. During the manufacturing process, some of the fabrics used get discarded and the PP-based waste is usually superfluous.
The aim of the “Recycler Project” is to re-process the waste in order for it to be used in the production of new SMS material, improving efficiency in the way the material is used. “What we are doing with PP instead of throwing it away, is to take the plastic off it, convert it in granules by melting and re-use it on our machine. We are looking at 20-30 tons of material being recycled with this project, resulting in the optimization of natural resources as smaller quantities are required for the manufacturing process” says Manoj Chadha, Plant Manager Mundra, BU Medical.
The new recycling procedure in Mundra will be fully implemented in the third quarter of the year.
Optimizing raw material utilization for our customers
We make it a priority to optimize the resources usage at each step of the manufacturing process. A few years ago we transformed the way we look at our business in Tape and decided to consider the full downstream value chain in our production process.
That’s when the ‘value driver’ project started. Since 2014, the Ahlstrom-Munksjö Tape team has been conducting extensive research to find out what the main drivers for value in each step of our value chain are. As part of this project, we looked at what’s important for the end user of the tape, but also what’s important to our customers; in terms of ease and efficiency of processing.
One important value driver came out which is the “Saturation efficiency”: we make sure our products are designed and produced in such a way that our customers have higher efficiency levels during saturation and coating steps (therefore using less) with the same end-user performance.
Besides these upstream efforts, we’re also working on more sustainable alternative altogether as we detailed in article 3.
Reusing water resources in our Saint Séverin plant in France
Our Saint-Séverin plant in southwestern France produces Genuine Vegetable Parchment which is largely used for Cooking & Baking applications across our global portfolio of customers.
Genuine Vegetable Parchment is a baking paper made out of 100% cellulose with no additives. It can be used for numerous end-use applications such as consumer rolls, pan liners for restaurants, steaming, rolled dough, baking molds and food trays & containers.
The process of producing Genuine Vegetable Parchment is quite a water intensive, so to lessen its consumption, the plant put into place a circuit of filtration and UV purification to take out bacteria in the used water.
As a consequence, we are able to reuse nearly half of the water consumed during the production process in new production batches, which considerably lessens the impact of our product.
This article marks the end of the series, but certainly not of the Specialties Business Area journey to drive innovative and sustainable solutions for everyday products. So stay tuned for more news about our efforts!