United States – ‘With a few exceptions, plastics used in the healthcare industry are single use materials representing a linear take-make-dispose economy,’ so say the US Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council and Plastics Industry Association. They launched a special pilot project in Chicago in the hopes of proving that scrap plastics originating from this sector are valuable.
More than 10 billion pounds of plastic healthcare packaging were placed in the market in 2013, the project partners state. On a global basis, only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling.
‘Across the healthcare sector these rates are significantly lower,’ it is said. This begs the question: Is it possible to radically increase the amount of clinical healthcare plastics managed as technical materials in a circular “make-use-return” economy?
The new project was kicked off at multiple hospitals in Chicago and successfully defined the relative quantities of material types and provided an understanding of the complexity of sorting the materials once comingled.
Sterilisation wrap as well as film plastics represented the highest volume of material collected, and were evaluated as a viable substitute or supplement for virgin resins in product manufacturing.
It would seem that materials can be collected in sufficient quantities ‘to surpass the economic tipping point such that recycling of these materials represents a good business opportunity for recyclers’. Also, when mechanical recycling options are not available for these healthcare plastics, value can still be realised through energy conversion and chemical recycling.
In conclusion, non-infectious plastic packaging and products collected at hospitals represents a viable business model for the recycling of healthcare plastics on a regional basis.
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