A niche recycling trial for hospital waste across seven hospitals in England has seen 830 kg of PVC medical items collected between December 2014 and March 2016, according to the British Plastics Federation (BPF).
The BPF, working with Axion Consulting, has placed a small number of bins in the hospitals, two in northern England and five in the south, in which medical staff place devices such as IV solution bags; nasal cannulas; oxygen tubes; anaesthetic masks and oxygen masks.
Hannah Burke of Axion explained: “These items are used by patients who have elective surgery after an operation. They are not a health hazard and are collected in a controlled environment.
“We provide one or two bins for the items and they are dismantled in what is a control point by the hospital staff who remove the non-PVC material. They can also see if they are contaminated and should not go in the bins – the staff understand the infection risk and we reiterate this in our training.”
The PVC items go to a UK recycler, which Ms Burke declined to name. At the plant in England, the material is granulated and heat extruded before being turned into recycled garden products including tree ties.
As of March 2016, the scheme, known as Recomed, has seen the collection and recycling of more than 830kg of PVC medical waste and now operates at 7 sites. Hospitals working on the project include Frimley Park in Surrey and the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead.
According to Recomed, with about 1,500 hospitals in the UK, estimates put the total tonnage of PVC waste at over 2,000 tonnes per annum.
It is thought that the project is the first of its kind in Europe and is being funded by VinylPlus, the voluntary sustainable development programme of the European PVC industry which was created in part down to criticisim of PVC as a product. VinylPlus says that “it aims at creating a long-term sustainability framework for the entire PVC value chain”.
Other similar recycling schemes have also been developed in Australia and South Africa.
The English project will be reassessed in December this year as to its impact. Ms Burke noted: “We have to work out what works and doesn’t work, and we will be sharing information with our trial partners.”