Johnson & Johnson Medical

Reuse of Wastewater: Johnson & Johnson Medical


Courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Medical

 Johnson & Johnson Medical's Sydney plant is recycling water previously discharged from its water purification system. The project demonstrates that common sense 'low-technology' options for recycling industrial process water can ease pressure on both water supply and sewerage systems, and save money at the same time.


Johnson & Johnson Medical (J&J) is located at North Ryde in Sydney. Its building and grounds, with their beautiful lawns and gardens, are a well known landmark in the area. The company is the broadest based supplier of medical devices in Australia and New Zealand. Besides manufacturing a comprehensive range of surgical sutures, which are exported to the USA, Canada and Japan, J&J also manufactures pharmaceutical products for its affiliate companies in Australia.

The Process

J&J's Sydney plant uses a reverse osmosis water purification system to produce high quality water for manufacturing pharmaceutical products. In the process, the system also generates a large volume of discharge water. Depending on the output of the factory, between 3 to 4 million litres of water was discharged to the municipal sewer system each year.

The company used 6 million litres of town water annually for its extensive lawns and gardens. During a prolonged drought, it carefully analysed the chemical composition of its discharge water and found that it was perfectly adequate for its landscaping irrigation needs.

Cleaner Production Initiative

As a result of water restrictions imposed in Sydney in the 1990s, J&J took the initiative to recycle excess water from the water treatment plant for the purpose of irrigating its North Ryde site.

J&J installed two storage tanks to accumulate its waste-water. The internal watering system is controlled by a computer which regulates the delivery of water to specific zones in terms of amount and time of day.

 The company's gardeners use a variety of plant types, each with unique water requirements. As part of the project, the gardeners substituted indigenous Australian species for European plants that were less well suited to the local conditions. These native plants required less water and fewer chemicals, and proved to be more pest resistant.

The new system includes a detector to prevent watering during periods when natural rainfall is adequate to meet the vegetationís needs.

Advantages of the Process

  • a 4 million litre reduction in the use of town water supply;
  • a 4 million litre reduction in water being discharged to the municipal sewerage system;
  • the payback period on the investment is less than 2 years (by reducing the volume of water purchased and
  • paying less in sewerage fees);
  • as a high profile company, J&J is able to demonstrate to the community through this project that common
  • sense 'low-technology' options for recycling industrial process water can ease pressure on both water supply
  • and sewerage systems.

Cleaner Production Incentive

As part of its global environmental strategy, J&J is constantly looking for opportunities to minimise or eliminate the consumption of natural resources, including pressures on town water supplies.

The initiative not only eliminates the water previously used on the gardens but also assists in reducing facility costs on the community, treatment plants, sewerage systems etc.

Water reprocessing is currently undergoing significant redesign as part of a major redevelopment of the site. The redevelopment necessitates an upgrade of fire protection facilities, including the installation of a 400,000 litre water storage tank. The new storage tank provides sufficient capacity to accommodate the excess plant water, enabling irrigation of the entire 10 acre site.


The only significant barrier to the installation of water recycling initiatives such as that undertaken by J&J is the initial capital investment. In the context, however, of the current redevelopment of the North Ryde site, the provision of additional water storage and extension of the irrigation system is a relatively minor cost, which is well offset by the reduction in water and sewerage costs.


Johnson & Johnson Medical's initiatives at North Ryde are featured in Industry, Fresh Water, Sustainable Development, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, UNEP, April 1998.

Case study coordinated by the Environment Management Industry Association of Australia (EMIAA), June 1998.

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