The PVC Recovery in Hospitals program collects used PVC medical products for recycling into useful new products.

The PVC Recovery in Hospitals Program collects 3 specific medical products (IV bags, face masks and tubes) for recycling in to useful new products.  It is a world-first program, now being replicated in UK, South Africa and Thailand, with others in the pipeline.

PVC in these three products is highly recyclable because it is a consistent, high quality, single plastic, rather than a multi-layered composite plastic. For example a 300 bed hospital could easily recycle around 2.5 tonnes of these quality PVC products each year.  The VCA is working with partners to consolidate the PVC recovery program in 2015-16, and integrated a large working group session into the ReSource Summit in September 2015 (more info and actions see below).

Plastics are currently a significant share of hospital general waste to landfill. PVC (vinyl) is widely used, as building products such as flooring, pipe and conduit, and well as these speciality medical products. The VCA is working to form recovering systems for these products as well as to consolidate the medical product program.

How it started

The PVC Recovery in hospital program started in 2009 when Forbes McGain, Anaethetist at Western Health, Victoria enquired about recycling options for the many PVC medical products used in hospitals. Together with the Vinyl Council and reprocessor members a series of trials started in the hospital and in reprocessing products for hose and mats.  

Soon trials were underway in Liverpool Hospital in New South Wales, in Tasmania and New Zealand. It became apparent that certain products in certain parts of hospitals were best suited for collections with minimal contamination and consistent quality for reprocessing.

Growth in numbers

By December 2013 there were 21 hospitals, by December 2014 it had grown to 32, and in Aug 2015 it had grown to 6 tonnes p/mth with 52 in Australia (Vic, Tas and NSW) and New Zealand. We are negotiating with reprocessors and collectors to extend the program to new states in 2016 (SA, WA and Qld).  The target is to reach 85 hospitals by Oct 2016, with 150 tonnes pa.

It is estimated that Australia consumes at least 2,500 tonnes per annum of PVC in the most common medical products, including 50 million IV bags. Each tonne of recycled PVC produced will replace about one tonne of virgin PVC compound used in new products.

Baxter Healthcare, one of the program partners, started a renal home care PVC recovery program in 2013 with a similar growth in interest and recovery rates, with 509 patients and 4 tonnes per month by August 2015.

New product

Medical PVC products cannot be remade into medical grade PVC, so instead these three selected items become hose for fire extinguishers, gardens and industry, play and safety mats for kids and workplaces.

Wanting to start a PVC Recovery Program?

Educating and engaging staff in hospitals is crucial to the success of recovery and recycling of products. It is through the collective efforts of staff that attitudes towards waste change, the volume of material recovered grows and contamination of the collected PVC is minimised.

The following booklet, training slides and short video has been designed to help hospitals understand how to set up and implement PVC Recovery effectively and efficiently.  The Vinyl Council of Australia has developed this tool kit with support from Baxter Healthcare, NSW EPA, Sustainability Victoria and Liverpool Hospital.

To help set up your PVC Recovery program:

DOWNLOAD the Fact Sheets for staff here

DOWNLOAD the Training slides here

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