Published On: Sun, Aug 19th, 2012

New recycling test focuses on Stanford Medical Center

New recycling test focuses on Stanford Medical Center

New recycling test focuses on Stanford Medical Center

A new major project will explore the potential for more plastics recycling in American hospitals.

The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC) will work with the Stanford University Medical Center to establish a six-month pilot study to develop a better understanding of plastic waste characterization within healthcare facilities. The goal is to collect and analyze data related to materials, types, volumes and sources of pre-patient plastic waste at Stanford Hospital and Clinics in Palo Alto, CA.

“This pilot work is momentous as we work towards our mission of inspiring and enabling sustainable, cost-effective recycling solutions for plastic products used in the delivery of healthcare,” says Tod Christenson, director of HPRC. “The information captured from this study will provide valuable insight into the barriers and challenges of recycling mixed plastics in hospitals. From these learnings, HPRC can then contribute meaningful fact and experience-based guidance on plastics recycling to other healthcare facilities.”

Initial work by the group in characterizing plastic waste has been led by Kurt Duska, president of Engineered Plastics, Inc. and EPI Recycling Solutions of Erie, PA. He was the lead of a pilot study conducted with the Cleveland Clinic and Waste Management, indicating that operating room plastics can be economically recycled with less environmental impact than an equivalent amount of virgin plastics.

Stanford is the next big project

“Stanford has been passionately active in plastics recycling within our clinical setting for some time now,” says Krisanne Hanson, director of sustainability, Stanford University Medical Center. “As a Healthcare Facility Advisory Board member to HPRC, we are excited to work with them to increase industry knowledge, share best practices and define solutions for other hospitals seeking greater sustainability in this area.”

The pilot study will include data collection in the following functional areas: surgical services, interventional services including catheterization and angiography labs, pre and post-anesthesia care settings and pharmacy. The study will be funded by Stanford University Medical Center with technical support provided by HPRC.

Stanford Hospital’s operating rooms typically generate 20 to 30% of the hospital’s total waste. In 2004, the hospital began to convert sharps’ and needles containers to versions made of recyclable and reusable plastic. In 2005, the hospital converted to reusable suction canisters in its Ambulatory Surgery center. According to a Stanford press release, the switch was so successful that it purchased 25 more such units for the main operating room.

Members of the HPRC are Beckton, Dickinson and Co.; Cardinal Health; DuPont; Hospira, Johnson & Johnson; Kimberley Clark; Waste Management; EPI Recycling Solutions; Eastman Chemical; Covidien; SABIC; Phillips Healthcare; Kimberly-Clark; and Baxter International.