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Healthcare group to push plastics recycling in hospitals

USA – Eight healthcare providers, manufacturers and waste handlers in the USA will work together to make plastic products in hospitals more recyclable, tackling all stages from design to disposal.

The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC) wants to see more packaging waste and plastics products collected and recycled at healthcare facilities. The comprises recycler Engineered Plastics and Waste Management; healthcare service provider Cardinal Health; and manufacturers DuPont, Hospira, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly Clark and Becton, Dickinson.

‘When you look at the amount of waste generated in a hospital, plastic represents a very large proportion,’ said Tod Christenson, director of the HPRC. Yet little of this was recycled. ‘You have things that disable the opportunity to recycle all along the value chain,’ he said.

Designing products that used multiple plastics, or sticking paper labels on plastics products, hampered recycling, according to Christenson. Employees needed to be made aware of what plastics were recyclable, and facilities must have enough space to collect, sort and store recyclables until they could be picked up.

The HPRC will focus only on pre-patient contact materials, so it will not be dealing with medical waste. That still left scope to improve recycling of products such as intravenous bags, wash basins, bottles and polyethylene fibre wrapping, Christenson said.

In three initial projects, the council will formulate product and packaging design guidelines to help companies create more recyclable products; examine in more detail the issues that prevent recycling; and assess recycling programmes to determine how much plastics waste hospitals are generating, where it is coming from, and highlight current best practice. Test runs so far have handled 10 tonnes of plastics waste.

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