Flexible Healthcare Plastics Recycling Pilot

Flexible plastic packaging (including plastic bags, stretch and shrink film, sterilization wrap, and medical device packaging) represents a major class of materials common to the healthcare waste stream. However, due to the lack of a standard composition, the potential for the presence of different resins across the layers, and the difficulty of manual sorting, recycling these materials is complicated.

In light of these obstacles, HPRC has undertaken a Flexibles Recyclability Assessment pilot project aimed at showing that, with proper controls, flexible packaging can be successfully segregated from the OR waste stream without fear of hazardous material contamination. Our work, an extension and expansion of a previous HPRC project conducted with Penn State University, indicates that a mixed-material stream of flexibles from multiple sources can be processed and pelletized into a resin for use in a secondary application. 

HPRC set out to pilot a mechanical recycling methodology for mixed-flexible packaging materials. Our main goals were to highlight some of the key opportunities and barriers associated with recycling flexible healthcare packaging and begin to chart the path forward.

The full pilot report provides a complete overview of our methodology, including:

  • Flexible medical packaging details and specs

  • Collection, accumulation, and sorting processes

  • Recycling process overview

  • Materials testing and results

  • Conclusions 


HPRC would like to thank BD, DuPont, Medtronic, Ravago, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital, Lehigh Valley Hospital, and Cleveland Clinic for their contributions to this study. We would also like to recognize our other HPRC and Healthcare Facility Advisory Board (HFAB) members for their support. Special thanks to EREMA and UMass-Lowell for their external assistance as well. 


Download our complete Flexibles Recyclability Assessment pilot project report here. Questions? Contact us.