HPRC and Practice Greenhealth Present Key Results from Plastics Recycling Survey of U.S. Hospitals

66% of Hospitals Collecting 40% or Less of Plastics Available for Recycling
Mar 20, 2015 9:45 AM ET

March 20, 2015 /3BL Media/ - The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC), in collaboration with Practice Greenhealth, has concluded a survey to establish a baseline characterization of current plastic recycling activity across U.S. Hospitals and to better understand the challenges limiting plastics recycling in patient care areas. Receiving responses representative of 663 hospitals nationwide, two-thirds of respondents indicated that they were collecting 40% or less of what could be recycled. Results also show that while the cafeteria remains the most frequent area where plastics collection was taking place, high volume patient care areas are not far behind. 

“It’s encouraging to see patient care areas gaining ground as a target for plastics recycling,” says Tod Christenson, Executive Director of HPRC. “These areas often generate the highest volumes of plastic resources within the hospital, most of which is clean, free from patient contact and contamination. Materials like Tyvek® packaging, sterilization wrap, saline bottles, basins and trays are all common patient care products that are easily recycled.”

According to the survey results, the biggest challenges to recycling healthcare plastics included difficulties identifying which materials can be recycled, space limitations in both clinical settings and waste disposal areas, and finding a recycler to take the collected plastics. Additionally, in light of these challenges, 71 percent of survey respondents said that they expect their plastics recycling programs to expand over the next two years, suggesting a growing appetite and desire for more sustainable management of plastic waste generated by hospitals.

“As a member of HPRC, these results provide useful insights to our efforts of enabling increased recycling of plastic products and packaging in healthcare,” says Sarah Hill, Product Stewardship & Sustainability Program Manager at Medtronic. “Suppliers are sometimes better positioned to remove some of the recycling barriers that their customers face, which can accelerate change and create value for everyone.”

“This data will serve to guide our technical agenda moving forward in supporting hospitals in optimizing their plastics recycling programs,” concludes Christenson. 

The survey was sent to healthcare professionals across Facilities, EHS (Environment, Health and Safety), Environmental Services, Procurement, Sustainability and Clinical Staff departments. In addition to benchmarking current plastics recycling activity, the survey also explored general recycling practices, including material accumulation methods, equipment use and waste hauling of recovered plastics.

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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 ten brand leading and globally recognized members including Baxter, BD, Bemis, Cardinal Health, DuPont, Eastman Chemical Company, Halyard Health, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic 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 www.hprc.org.

About Practice Greenhealth 
Practice Greenhealth is the leading nonprofit membership and networking organization for sustainable health care. Our mission is to empower our members to increase their efficiencies and environmental stewardship while improving patient safety and care through tools, best practices and knowledge. Founded in 2008, Practice Greenhealth is the source for environmental solutions for the health care sector. Practice Greenhealth members include hospitals and health care systems, health care providers, manufacturers and service providers, architectural, engineering and design firms, group purchasing organizations (GPOs) and non-profits. For more information, visit practicegreenhealth.org.