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Healthcare Plastics Waste Recycling

Medical care is vital for our life, health and well being. But the waste generated from medical activities can be hazardous, toxic and even lethal because of their high potential for diseases transmission.

Hospitals generate various kinds of wastes from wards, operation theaters and outpatient areas. These wastes include bandages, cotton, soiled linen, body parts, sharps (needle, syringes etc), medicines (discarded or expired), laboratory wastes etc which carry infection and should be properly collected, segregated, stored, transported, treated and disposed.

India generates a huge quantity of Bio Medical Waste (BMW) every year. Health care waste is a heterogeneous mixture, which is very difficult to manage as such.

Components Of Bio-Medical waste

  • human anatomical waste (tissues, organs, body parts etc.)

  • animal waste (as above, generated during research/experimentation, from veterinary hospitals etc.)

  • microbiology and biotechnology waste, such as, laboratory cultures, microorganisms, human and animal cell cultures, toxins etc.

  • waste sharps, such as, hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpels, broken glass etc.

  • discarded medicines and cyto-toxic drugs

  • soiled waste, such as dressing, bandages, plaster casts, material contaminated with blood etc.

  • solid waste (disposable items like tubes, catheters etc. excluding sharps)

  • liquid waste generated from any of the infected areas

  • incineration ash

  • chemical waste

Common Recyclable Plastics

There is an almost endless supply of disposable plastic materials in a typical health care facility. However, some of the most common recyclable medical plastics include the following:

  • Tyvek, made from high-density polyethylene, is a common material used in sterile barrier packaging, typically as part of a Chevron peel pouch or lid on a rigid tray. It can be recycled with other No. 2 plastics.

  • Sterilization wrap, often referred to as blue wrap, is a sterile material made from polypropylene (PP) that protects surgical instruments and other items from contamination. It can be recycled with other No. 5 plastics.

  • Saline bottles are a common operating room product, typically made from PP, and when easy to drain, can be recycled with other No. 5 plastics.

  • Water pitchers, basins and trays are common patient care products, typically made from polyethylene terephthalate that can be recycled with other No. 1 plastics.

Environmental Concerns

The following are the main environmental concerns with respect to improper disposal of bio-medical waste management:

  • Spread of infection and disease through vectors (fly, mosquito, insects etc.) which affect the in - house as well as surrounding population.

  • Spread of infection through contact/injury among medical/non-medical personnel and sweepers/rag pickers, especially from the sharps (needles, blades etc.).

  • Spread of infection through unauthorized recycling of disposable items such as hypodermic needles, tubes, blades, bottles etc.

  • Reaction due to use of discarded medicines.

  • Toxic emissions from defective/inefficient incinerators.

  • Indiscriminate disposal of incinerator ash / residues.

Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council

Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC: www.hprc.org ) is a private technical coalition of peers across the healthcare, recycling and waste management industries seeking to inspire and enable sustainable, cost-effective recycling solutions for plastic products and materials used in the delivery of healthcare.

HPRC exists in a collaborative effort to be a change agent for sustainable healthcare product and packaging lifecycle with the end goal of increasing the overall recycling of healthcare plastics. HPRC is unique in its focus on identification of plastics recycling barriers and solution development along the entire value chain. HPRC is an organization seeking to affect positively plastics recycling from healthcare product design and manufacturing through product use, disposal and recycle.

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