Did you know that healthcare facilities in the United States generate approximately 14,000 tons of waste per day and that up to 25% of that waste is plastic packaging and products?
Not only is this plastic waste plentiful, but up to 85% or more of it is non-infectious (meaning it never comes into contact with a patient). Overall, it is estimated that there are about 1 million tons of clean, non-infectious healthcare plastics generated in United States healthcare facilities each year. In order to meet strict United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for medical supplies, equipment, and associated packaging, most healthcare plastics are pure, high-quality materials.
As the importance of sustainability continues to rise within the marketplace, manufacturers and major brand owners are increasingly looking for high-quality recycling content to utilize in the formulation of their products. By working with hospitals to help them produce clean streams of specific materials, plastics recyclers can gain a valuable material source which can help them improve the performance of their regrind and repro pellets and products made from these materials.
So, what can healthcare plastics be used for? What are some of the common materials? And most importantly, how can recyclers take advantage of this clean plastics waste stream and create value with it?
Introducing HPRC’s New Guide for Recyclers
To enable recyclers to take advantage of this waste stream, HPRC has created Healthcare Plastics: Guidance for Recyclers to help inform and educate recyclers and processors about the common streams of plastic waste generated from clinical settings. We lay out the common materials, strategies for working with hospitals, processing techniques, and potential markets to help build the foundation for recycling across the healthcare industry—and make it easier for recyclers everywhere to partner with hospitals and see the benefits of hospital plastics recycling.
Of course, setting up a partnership with a hospital brings unique challenges, especially when compared to other recycling programs. Depending on the hospital, recycling programs run the gamut from comprehensive to virtually non-existent, so getting an understanding of the state of the hospital’s program is the first step. Our guidance explores this process, including planning for and dealing with contamination.
HPRC understands that while the value chain for healthcare plastics recycling can be complicated, we encourage all parties—recyclers, hospitals, and other stakeholders—to work cooperatively to establish programs that will maximize benefits for everyone.