End users of medical products, namely hospitals and healthcare facilities, increasingly want to see products and packaging that contains some level of recycled content. And why wouldn’t they? They often find themselves on the front lines of dealing with all the waste, and as stewards of human health, struggle with sending unnecessary plastic to landfill or incinerators. Not surprisingly though, the manufacturers of these medical products would also like to increase and promote the use of recycled content in their offerings when possible. Most of them have hefty environmental sustainability goals for their products, not to mention it’s in their own best interest to reduce the impacts of their operations and build resilience into their supply chains. Where the rub occurs is with product performance, traceability, and regulatory requirements – all things that are rigidly governed and not susceptible to quick and easy changes.
“In the healthcare industry, it’s important to remember that products and packaging must support patient and practitioner safety as the top priority,” says Peylina Chu, Executive Director of HPRC. “That said, we all want to produce less waste and keep plastics out of the environment. Members of HPRC are always looking for ways to improve product stewardship and environmental sustainability while meeting the needs of their customers. With innovative new technologies and higher demand for recycled content, recycling is being viewed with new promise and we are continuing to explore how both upstream and downstream systems are being re-imagined for a more circular future.”
To delve into this issue of healthcare plastics and circularity, we developed a white paper that outlines the challenges and opportunities for using post-consumer recycled (PCR) and post-industrial recycled (PIR) content in medical devices and medical device packaging. We present the regulatory, technical, infrastructure, and economic barriers to promoting circularity in healthcare plastics, as well as the opportunities on the horizon that could enable greater circular solutions for medical devices and medical device packaging applications.