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Healthcare Plastics Recycling Project: A Success

A collaborative multi-hospital recycling project between the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC) and the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) has been completed in the Chicago market.

The project aimed to address the issues surrounding the use and recycling of plastics used in the healthcare industry. HPRC and Plastics aimed to introduce a viable recycling model for healthcare plastics, the focus being on non-infectious plastic packaging and products collected from clinical areas of the hospitals.

Plastic materials in hospitals are currently difficult to recycle in an economically viable way due to the material failing to represent enough value to attract the attention of recyclers. The project brought together multiple hospitals in an attempt to overcome this issue.

Plastics primarily from main operating rooms and ambulatory surgery centers were collected and then transported by waste haulers to material recovery facilities (MRFs) for processing, or transferred to specialised plastics recyclers.

The project was a success in many areas, such as defining the relative quantities of material types and understanding the complexity of sorting the materials once collectively amassed.

The highest volume of material collected was sterilisation wrap and as such, the material was evaluated as a viable substitute or supplement for virgin resins in product manufacturing. Other packaging materials such as film plastics, as well as rigid plastic packaging were also collected.

The team were also successful in testing the potential to demonstrate value through energy conversion and chemical recycling, showing that value can still be realised through other recovery processes.

Chris Rogers, HPRC project manager said: “This project provided valuable insights into the realities of implementing plastics recycling programs in clinical healthcare settings. What we learned is that collection of plastics must be made simple for clinical staff in order to be effective. Detailed sorting at the point of generation is too complex and a distant priority from clinician’s primary focus of ensuring positive patient outcomes. It’s also important to remember that behavioural change around recycling can be a slow process, one that takes constant reinforcement over time.”

Kim Holmes senior director of recycling and diversion at PLASTICS said: “In addition to testing the recovery and mechanical recycling of healthcare plastics, we were also able to explore alternative pathways of chemical recycling and conversion to fuel products with our technology partners. Proving the value of these hospital plastics in the conversion process was an exciting dimension of this project and underscores the importance of adding non-mechanical recovery technologies to our resource management tool kit.”

Participating hospitals included Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Centre, and NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Evanston, Skokie and Glenbrook Hospitals.

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Trends Pushing Solid Growth in Global Market for Medical Plastics

New proprietary research by BCC Research reveals that long-term trends in the global healthcare industry are boosting the medical plastics market. Among its key drivers, aging populations and the increasing use of minimally invasive surgical techniques are pushing the global medical plastics market to reach about 17.2 billion pounds in 2021, up from 12.7 billion pounds in 2016.

Plastics usage in medical devices has been growing faster than the gross domestic product (GDP) of the U.S. and other major markets. The aging U.S. population, ongoing cost-reduction pressures in the healthcare field, advances in polymer performance, and environmental issues surrounding disposable and non-disposable medical devices are key factors in the market’s 6.2% CAGR.

Research Highlights

  • The demand for lighter materials is rising as healthcare activities move to locations outside clinical and hospital settings

  • The shift toward using disposable medical products, especially single–use versions packaged and placed in kits, continues to expand.

  • Other market drivers include advances in polymer performance and the introduction of new and lifesaving devices. “Commodity thermoplastics dominate the global market with around 60% of total volume”. requirements, pricing, environmental and regulatory issues.”

.Emerging Healthcare Trends Shaping the Plastics Market Long-term trends in the global healthcare industry are favorable to the continued growth of the medical plastics market, particularly aging populations in most major markets, which drive increased healthcare spending.

“One key trend that should benefit the market is healthcare provision in settings such as the home or outpatient clinics,” Fitzgerald says. “The movement of healthcare activities to less costly locations have increased the need for lighter materials, especially for housings. Thus, home healthcare and other out of-hospital treatment and service systems require prepackaged diagnostic and therapeutic kits that can be used on site and discarded. Most of these kits are plastic, as are the package

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