HPRC targets plastic medical scrap

HPRC targets plastic medical scrap

SPI-backed initiative undergoes pilot program in Chicago.


The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC), St. Paul, Minnesota, in collaboration with SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association (SPI), Washington, has announced the launch of a multihospital plastics recycling project in Chicago. Focused on noninfectious plastic packaging and products collected from clinical areas of hospitals, the project seeks to demonstrate a viable business model for recycling plastics collected in health care facilities, the two groups say.

The target goal is to recycle 100 tons of plastics during the project’s span from March to November 2016.

“As part of our mission to inspire and enable the recycling of plastics resources, we see this project as a tremendous opportunity to bring together hospitals, recyclers and end users to connect supply with demand,” says Tod Christenson, director of HPRC. “We’ve already seen recycling successes on a single-hospital basis. The next logical step is to expand upon those successes and validate that beyond the environmental benefits, there exist sound economic benefits—that recycling health care plastics makes good business sense.”

Based on previous pilot studies and research, HPRC estimates more than 1 million tons of noninfectious plastic materials are available for recovery from clinical settings among the more than 5,000 hospitals in the continental United States. Additionally, according to a recent survey conducted by HPRC and Practice Greenhealth, two-thirds of hospital respondents indicated they were collecting 40 percent or less of what could be recycled from their facilities.

“Health care plastics, including products and primary, secondary and tertiary packaging, can provide valuable feedstock to recyclers and other plastic industry stakeholders,” says Kim Holmes, senior director of recycling and diversion at SPI. “Through this project, we’re aiming to define best practices and develop guidance for both hospitals and recyclers that will enable other cities to replicate this model.”

Initial Chicago area hospitals participating in the project include Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center and NorthShore University HealthSystem Glenbrook, Evanston and Skokie campuses. As of mid-March, other area hospitals are also considering the opportunity to join the project, according to SPI. Potential materials being targeted for collection and recycling include primarily polypropylene and polyethylene resins in the form of sterilization wrap, irrigation bottles, basins, pitchers, trays, Tyvek and rigid and flexible packaging materials.

Companies providing logistics and recycling support include Waste Management of Illinois Inc., LakeShore Recycling Systems, Morton Grove, Illinois, and Antek Madison, which is based in Canada and has a Chicago location. Key Green Solutions LLC, a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based sustainability management software service provider, will collect and maintain project metrics.

The Barger division of PLACON will lend additional financial support to the project as an interested end user that can potentially create new products from the recycled materials.

Michigan-based Petoskey Plastics will supply specialized bags to accumulate and transport the plastic materials.

HPRC describes itself as a private technical coalition of industry peers in the health care, recycling and waste management industries seeking to improve recyclability of plastic products within the health care sector.