The start of 2022 has seen PVC recycling in healthcare expanding to more regional areas of Australia, including Albany in WA and Rockhampton in QLD, with more than 280 hospitals currently participating in the Vinyl Council of Australia’s initiated program.
Single-use plastics play a vital, life-saving role in healthcare, such as intravenous fluid bags, oxygen masks and tubing. Their ability to be recycled, through schemes like the PVC Recycling in Hospitals program, is diverting increasing volumes of this high-quality, medical grade material from landfill for recycling back into new, useful products. Since 2015, the program has recycled over 545 tonnes of these products – equivalent to over 27 million IV bags.
Despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic reducing elective surgery in most states and causing program suspensions in Tasmania, participation in the PVC Recycling in Hospitals program has grown nationally. The latest data shows that over the last two years, more than 60 hospitals Australia-wide have signed up.
Although 2021 waste collection volumes (119 tonnes) were slightly down on the 2020 figures (129 tonnes) due to pandemic disruption, the program continues to play an important role as life starts to return to normality.
Launched in 2013, the PVC Recycling in Hospitals Program collects and recycles non-infectious oxygen masks and tubing and Baxter IV fluid bags from theatres, recovery wards, intensive care units, dialysis and day procedure units. The recovered PVC is reused in a variety of new applications from garden hose to new gumboots.
Although 2021 volumes were down on the previous year due to the pandemic, the 119 tonnes collected were equivalent to 5.95 million IV fluid bags. The Vinyl Council, along with program partners Baxter Healthcare and recycler Welvic Australia, have a target for the program of the equivalent of 50 million IV bags recycled within Australia over a five-year period until 2025.
Reducing contamination and increasing collection at existing hospitals by ensuring the program is implemented correctly will be key focus areas in achieving this target. Separating PVC products from non-PVC products where the waste is generated leads to a higher volume of waste being diverted from landfill. It also produces a higher quality of PVC recyclate by minimising contamination from other materials.
Vinyl Council of Australia Chief Executive, Sophi MacMillan comments: “Our program is playing a leading role in lowering the amount of recyclable single-use plastic used in healthcare going into landfill, thereby reducing its environmental impact.
“We are delighted with the program’s progress, despite the challenging times. We thank everyone for their ongoing involvement and enthusiasm for the program.
“The sustained increase in hospital participation and collection efforts in recent months is encouraging. We hope that with rising participation the 50 million target remains in reach and recycling volumes increase back up to pre-Covid levels again throughout early to mid 2022.”