Healthcare Plastics and the Circular Economy

Jun 23, 2016 10:20 AM ET

HPRC and the Circular Economy

If you’ve ever spent time in a hospital, you probably noticed the massive amounts of materials that were being tossed into trash bins. Sterilization wrap, gowns, irrigation bottles, IV bags, basins, pitchers, trays, rigid and flexible packaging materials are all used once and then thrown away.

Recent studies report that hospitals generate 33.8 pounds of waste per day, per staffed bed. Multiply this amount of waste across world hospital bed density and we are talking staggering waste in the ballpark of 100 million tons per year.

Much of this waste is plastic, and it’s ending up in landfills or incinerators despite the fact that up to 85 percent of it is non-hazardous, meaning free from patient contact and infectious contamination.

Clearly, the potential for plastics recycling in hospitals is a significant opportunity to reduce environmental impacts. In particular, hospital plastics show great potential to be part of the Circular Economy (CE) movement, in which waste and pollution have been eliminated and products, components, and materials are kept at their highest and most effective use. Plastics in particular, have unique opportunities and challenges in what the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has dubbed the New Plastics Economy. 

However, it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. The challenges associated with recycling healthcare plastics are not just challenges at the hospital level; instead, barriers to recycling exist across the entire plastics value chain, from product design and manufacturing through product use and disposal.

Read more about how HPRC is engaging with Circular Economy issues on the HPRC blog.

About HPRC

HPRC is a private technical coalition of industry peers across healthcare, recycling and waste management industries seeking to improve recyclability of plastic products within healthcare. HPRC is made up of brand leading and globally recognized members including Baxter, BD, Cardinal Health, DuPont, Eastman Chemical Company, Halyard Health, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Ravago Manufacturing Americas and SABIC Innovative Plastics. The council convenes biannually at meetings hosted by an HPRC member that include facility tours to further learning and knowledge sharing opportunities through first-hand demonstration of best practices in sustainable product and packaging design and recycling processes. For more information, visit