Questions to Ask Your Recycling Partner

A Guide for Hospitals

When talking with a potential recycling business partner, use the following list of questions and discussion topics to help guide the conversation.


What plastics materials can the recycler/ materials recovery facility (MRF) accept?

Are all of the plastics from your waste characterization accepted? This would include:

  • Types of plastics (PET, PETG, PE, HDPE, PS, PP)

  • Forms of plastics (rigid plastics vs. flexible plastics)

  • Shapes of rigid plastics (bottles versus other shapes may affect processing equipment)

  • Contamination (paper labels, mixed plastics, glass, cardboard, wet materials, etc.) Mixing and compacting medical plastics waste stream with post-consumer recyclables may result in contamination with broken glass.


In what form can the MRF/recycler accept materials?

Considering the materials the recycler has indicated are acceptable for recycling, must they be collected separately or may they be comingled? May certain types of materials be collected together and others collected separately? 

 

How does the recycler want them packaged?  Is accumulation in polyethylene (LDPE/HDPE) bags acceptable?  How can the materials be temporarily accumulated at the hospital pending shipment offsite? This could be bales, gaylords, truckload, etc. What will the dock-out process be? These questions will help inform hospital dock procedures--see the space guidance section for more information


What about nonconforming materials?

From the hospital perspective, nonconforming materials usually means that infectious materials or sharps are accidentally mixed with the plastics recycling stream. The recycler will expect that the material it receives is not contaminated, so be prepared to discuss measures that you will implement to keep recyclable materials from being contaminated. This should include a description of your hospital’s employee and departmental commitments, training programs, collection procedures, and the QA/QC steps you take to ensure that hazardous materials are not present in in the recycling stream.


From the MRF/ recycler perspective, nonconforming materials usually means hazardous materials and sharps, as well as unacceptable types of plastic, solid waste, and/or other unacceptable materials which may be accidentally mixed in with the plastics recycling stream.


How will they manage nonconforming materials?

Review your recycling partner's emergency management plan and determine how nonconforming materials will be managed. Discuss the safety issues and control measures in use at their facilities. Establish a process for performing a root cause analysis in the event non-conforming materials are found in the recyclable stream, including corrective measures which will be put in place to prevent recurrence.

 

What is the final disposition of the plastics?

There might be further downstream processors, and you want to understand the full chain and determine if this information impacts the materials you intend to recycle.


What kind of data will your recycling partner collect and report?

Make sure you are on the same page regarding data and reporting capabilities and expectations.


What type of EHS management system do they have?

Do they have any EHS management system certifications? Can the MRF/ recycler provide you with a statement or certificate that its operations are in compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations? Consider reviewing EHS permits, certifications, registrations, etc.


Where will materials will be recycled? 

Will they be handled locally, domestically, or internationally? Which industries and products might the recycled materials ultimately be re-utilized in?

 

What resources are available for training and education?

Does the recycling partner have staffing or educational materials available to help successfully implement the program?

 

May there be changes to the recycling program?

Recycling is driven by economics; as economics change, some items may become more or less valuable to recyclers. Establish an understanding of whether the recycler can require a change in acceptable items, at what interval, and what type of resources may be provided to the hospital to institute the change.

 

Consider establishing a signed contract.

Get everything in writing, including agreement conditions, service deliverables, and legal commitments to cover any liability if improper practices occur.


Invite partner representatives to tour the hospital.

This will help them to understand your recycling operations and the process by which you will collect, sort and ship approved materials.

 

Discover more resources for before you begin hospital plastics recycling.