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Encouraging Plastics Recycling in Hospitals and Beyond


​The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC) develops design guidelines for engineers that could drive recycling throughout the supply chain.

Design for Recycling” guidelines by the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC) are currently being reviewed by founding members DuPont, Becton, Dickinson and Company, Cardinal Health, Engineered Plastics, Hospira, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly Clark, and Waste Management. Aiming to identify and overcome the disablers to recycling in the healthcare supply chain, the coalition decided that guidelines could encourage developers to build recyclability into both package and product design.

The guidelines address materials and their identification, then offer specific product and package examples with a technical approach, and finally state the environmental, economical, and societal benefits of recycling, explains Tod Christenson, HPRC director. “The guide definitely advocates recycling in the healthcare waste stream,” he says. “It will bring attention to what designers can do to encourage recycling in hospitals.”

Christenson acknowledges that the guide does look at only one aspect of sustainability, so it does not offer a means for conducting a life-cycle analysis (LCA) of any given package or product. “We encourage designers to do an LCA,” emphasizes Christenson. “It is prudent to evaluate and weigh all benefits and consequences. After all, the number-one priority in healthcare is patient health, which depends upon product quality and integrity. There are trade offs, so you must balance your decisions against these needs.”

But Christenson argues that maintaining product quality and integrity does not obviate recyclability. “We are taking an aspirational approach and identifying desirable design practices versus less desirable. There are decisions that can be made about materials that can fulfill both goals,” he says.

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