White Paper Targets Advanced Recycling in Healthcare

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor, Facility Market
September 13, 2021

A new white paper from the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC), Advanced Recycling of Healthcare Plastics: An Opportunity for Circularity, explores advanced recycling technologies in an effort to discover if they could address the healthcare plastics waste stream. The research included interviewing 16 advanced U.S. recycling companies to uncover opportunities for healthcare plastics and challenges posed by the various advanced recycling technologies, including purification, decomposition, and conversion.

Plastics play a critical role in the delivery of safe and cost-effective healthcare services around the world, but the healthcare industry has recognized that the environmental footprint from the widespread use of plastics, especially packaging, is significant.

Previous work by HPRC around recyclability of flexible healthcare plastics demonstrated that mixed-material streams of flexible plastics could be successfully recycled through mechanical recycling. Unfortunately, many waste stream plastics are typically aggregated from multiple sources and include resins, rendering them too contaminated, degraded, or incompatible for traditional mechanical recycling processes. So in 2020, HPRC initiated a new project to explore the applicability of alternative advanced recycling technologies to the healthcare plastic waste stream. Among the white paper’s insights:

  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin is detrimental to most advanced recycling technologies.
  • The output from advanced recycling is similar to virgin plastics and can be used to help manufacturers meet recycled content goals for products and packaging.
  • Less sorting is required for advanced recycling.

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Topic Area: Sustainable Operations

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