On 10 July 2019 the National Health Service (NHS) Parliamentary Awards will honor the UK healthcare staff for their dedication, hard work and commitment. As a proud partner, PVCMed Alliance supports the Awards to recognise the importance of nurses in particular in achieving sustainable development in the health sector.
Plastic-based medical devices are key to successful patient treatment, and every day, all around the world, millions of single-use devices are thrown away. PVC is the most used polymer for medical devices and is known for its unique recyclability. So far medical plastics have not been part of the recycling discussion, but this is about to change thanks to British hospitals specifically.
Nurses as sustainability champions
In the UK around 30 hospitals are part of the RecoMed scheme that collects and recycles oxygen masks and tubing from pre-screened, non-infectious patients. The collected devices are turned into useful horticultural products that help protect young trees. So far, over 550,000 oxygen mask have been collected. The waste is sorted at ward-level to ensure a clean, high-quality PVC waste stream. For nurses, this adds an extra task to their already busy and life-saving work schedule.
Ole Grøndahl Hansen, PVCMed Alliance Project Manager, adds: “The NHS Parliamentary Awards is a unique opportunity for us to recognise the hard work done by nurses, also when it comes to sustainability. We have experienced that the implementation of PVC recycling in hospitals is mainly driven by staff, who see the mountains of waste generated every day from patient treatment. They already recycle plastic at home and therefore find it a natural progression to do it at their workplace.”
Recycling saves resources and cost
The potential for medical devices recycling is huge. In the UK alone, more than 8 million anaesthetics are performed each year. By recycling medical devices, hospitals can contribute to substantial carbon and energy savings: every kilo of recycled PVC replaces the same amount on the market, and for each kilo of PVC recycled, 2 kilos of CO2 are saved. Further, recycled PVC’s primary energy demand is up to 90% lower than virgin PVC production. At the same time, hospitals can save money on waste management by sorting out devices for recycling rather than sending them to costly waste treatment.
No contamination risk
Though the circular economy and resource efficiency have been on the agenda for years, recycling of medical devices has often been considered a no-go due to fear of contamination. Yet recent research shows that only about 3% of hospital waste presents a risk for contamination. This waste is therefore treated in a separate waste stream. An oxygen mask used on a patient that has been treated for a knee injury can be recycled just as safely as the plastic drinking water bottle by his bedside.
PVCMed Alliance is The European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers’ value chain platform to raise awareness and promote informed decisions about the use of PVC in healthcare. PVCMed Alliance represents all parts of the PVC medical industry chain, namely resin & plasticiser producers and PVC converters. The Alliance was established in 2012.