• Turning trays into trees

    3M's 2018 Sustainability Report - Turning trays into trees

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    • What do you do with 18,000 plastic trays that are no longer usable in a drug delivery systems production line?

      If you’re the 3M manufacturing facility in Loughborough, England, you use science, creativity, collaboration, and an eye for Sustainability, to turn those trays into trees.

      But let’s start at the beginning. The Loughborough facility was installing a new filling line that made the old trays and their lids obsolete. The trays and lids were initially put in storage, but this required a lot of space. In fact, if you placed the entire 18,000 on top of each other, the resulting stack would be almost twice the height of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. So, after consulting with the plastic injection molding specialists who were making the new trays, 3M manufacturing technology engineer Paul Eastwood hit on a new idea.

      Instead of sending the trays to a landfill, they would be recycled for use in manufacturing at the 3M facility in Gorseinon, 200 miles down the road.

      Paul consulted with MGS Technical Plastics, a company that has been supplying protective side shields for a production line at Gorseinon for several years. Neil Garrity, manufacturing director at MGS, explains: “The trays were made from a plastic polymer known as ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). Our materials team is very experienced in working with ABS and we arranged for the trays to be ground down into small pellets so that we could process them into shields.”

      The $10,500 savings achieved by recycling the trays was then donated to Earth Restoration Services, which works with schools across the United Kingdom to plant trees and wild flower meadows.

      Schools in communities close to the 3M sites received native tree saplings, wild plants, and planting materials in 2017, providing students with a way to improve and learn from their environment.

      “It’s a great solution for us, for the environment, and for the schools that will be benefitting from the plantings.”

      Paul Eastwood
      3M Manufacturing Technology Engineer