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Swedish project to boost healthcare plastics recycling

Sweden – ‘Every day, a vast quantity of plastics from healthcare is used and disposed of,’ asserts the PVCMed Alliance, a group that represents Europe’s PVC medical industry chain. The body is to co-fund and participate in a new Swedish waste management project which aims to establish a sustainable management system for medical plastic waste.

Together with various other parties, including the Swedish Environmental Institute, the alliance will work towards creating a roadmap tailored to the recycling of plastics from the healthcare industry. One of its goals is to identify products and packaging that can be easily sorted and recycled to a high quality, while another is to investigate means of improving the efficiency of existing plastics recycling systems.

‘A major challenge is to develop the waste separation system in order to increase plastics recycling without disrupting the hospitals’ daily work,’ explains Kristian Hemström, project leader at Stockholm County Council. ‘The recycling of medical plastics must be done in a way that does not increase hygienic risks.’

Big strides forward

According to PVCMed Alliance, ‘big strides’ have already been made by the healthcare sector to improve medical waste management. ‘A large part of the technical work will be to develop pre-treatment methods in order to increase the rate of recycling and to find applications for the recycled plastic while ensuring safety and quality,’ it adds.

‘In 2012, about 70 tonnes of plastic packaging was separated in our hospital,’ comments project participant Jens Strömberg, environmental strategist at Västra Göteland Regional Council. He believes there is ‘a great potential’ to increase separation of the medical plastic waste used at present for energy recovery.

The project is financed by Vinnova, the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems, and is scheduled to run until January 2014.

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