Are Healthcare Flexibles the Next Big Plastic Recycling Feedstock?
Flexible plastic packaging (plastic bags, stretch and shrink film, sterilization wrap, medical device packaging, and so on) represents a significant percentage of the healthcare waste stream, yet is rarely recycled. Due to their lack of standard composition and the potential for mixed resins across different layers, utilizing these materials presents numerous challenges for recyclers. Flexibles are also easily confused visually with other materials, making manual on-site sorting challenging for hospital staff. In hopes of bringing value to an otherwise untapped feedstock, HPRC undertook a pilot project to try and determine if and how flexibles can become a viable resource for recyclers.
Materials were collected from Cleveland Clinic’s Main Campus; Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Cedar Crest, Muhlenberg, and 17th Street Hospitals; and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. The flexibles were then shipped to EREMA, a manufacturer of plastic recycling equipment, for processing, and then on to the Plastics Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell to test whether commercially available compatibilizers improved blend properties when compounded with multi-material flexible plastics.
Want to learn more? Download our complete Flexibles Recyclability Assessment pilot project report here.