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Healthcare Plastics Recycling

A collaborative multi-hospital recycling project between the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC) and the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) in Chicago proved to be successful.

Plastic materials in hospitals are currently difficult to recycle in an economically viable way due to the material failing to represent enough value to attract the attention of recyclers. The project brought together multiple hospitals in an attempt to overcome this issue.

Plastics primarily from main operating rooms and ambulatory surgery centres were collected and then transported by waste haulers to material recovery facilities (MRFs) for processing, or transferred to specialised plastics recyclers.

A project aimed to address the issues surrounding the use and recycling of plastics used in the healthcare industry was carried out in Chicago. HPRC and Plastics aimed to introduce a viable recycling model for healthcare plastics, the focus being on noninfectious plastic packaging and products collected from clinical areas of the hospitals.

The project was a success in many areas, such as defining the relative quantities of material types and understanding the complexity of sorting the materials once collectively amassed. The highest volume of material collected was sterilisation wrap and as such, the material was evaluated as a viable substitute or supplement for virgin resins in product manufacturing. Other packaging materials such as film plastics, as well as rigid plastic packaging were also collected.

The team were also successful in testing the potential to demonstrate value through energy conversion and chemical recycling, showing that value can still be realised through other recovery processes.

Chris Rogers, HPRC project manager said: “This project provided valuable insights into the realities of implementing plastics recycling programs in clinical healthcare settings. What we learned is that collection of plastics must be made simple for clinical staff in order to be effective. Detailed sorting at the point of generation is too complex and a distant priority from clinician’s primary focus of ensuring positive patient outcomes. It’s also important to remember that behavioural change around recycling can be a slow process, one that takes constant reinforcement over time.”

Kim Holmes senior director of recycling and diversion at PLASTICS said: “In addition to testing the recovery and mechanical recycling of healthcare plastics, we were also able to explore alternative pathways of chemical recycling and conversion to fuel products with our technology partners. Proving the value of these hospital plastics in the conversion process was an exciting dimension of this project and underscores the importance of adding non-mechanical recovery technologies to our resource management tool kit.”

Participating hospitals included Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Centre, and NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Evanston, Skokie and Glenbrook Hospitals.

Ref: (  - December 20, 2016)

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