PVC Recovery initiative launched to divert recyclable plastic hospital waste from landfill

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Vinyl Council of Australia teams with major partner Baxter to educate interested hospitals and extend the program.

The Vinyl Council of Australia is launching this week helpful education resources for the healthcare industry to implement recycling of commonly used PVC medical products.

Australian healthcare consumes over 50 million IV fluid bags a year made from PVC as well as significant quantities of tubing and oxygen masks. That is equivalent to over 2,500 tonnes of material but represents only a fraction of all the plastics consumed in single use, disposable products in hospitals.

A pilot PVC Recovery in Hospitals program, launched at Western Health Victoria in 2009, demonstrated that these kinds of PVC medical products can be separated relatively easily by hospital staff after use and recovered for recycling into new products such as industrial house and non-slip floor mats.

The PVC Recovery in Hospitals program has since been trialled successfully across a number of Victorian hospitals and more recently, Liverpool Hospital in NSW.

The program is being officially launched today at Western Health, Footscray and tomorrow at Baxter Healthcare, Sydney.
It is been estimated that plastics account for about one third of a hospital’s general waste, most of which is sent to landfill in Australia. Of that plastic waste, PVC is estimated to represent about 25 per cent.

Sophi MacMillan, Chief Executive of the Vinyl Council of Australia said “Prior to the initiation of the PVC Recovery project, minor amounts of plastic waste were being recycled in healthcare but no PVC.

“The trials showed that with clear guidance to help recognise recyclable waste streams, change current behaviours and set up appropriate systems, we can recover tonnes of PVC medical product waste from hospitals and divert it from landfill.
“The educational resources we have released today will enable other interested hospitals to join the PVC Recovery program. We are aware of a lot of interest in this program being taken up.”

Dr. Forbes McGain, Anaesthetist & ICU Physician, Western Health was a key instigator of the PVC Recovery in Healthcare and has championed the program to its launch today.

“This recycling program occurred to me when I spent a lot of my time chucking things away and watching other people doing the same. It was relatively easy to find people who agreed with me that we’ve got to do something about it” said Dr McGain.

Dr McGain made contact with the Vinyl Council and together, we identified PVC products that could be collected, as well as recyclers who were interested in the material and end uses for it.

For hospitals, some of the key challenges in implementing waste recovery include changing behaviour, finding storage space for waste and bins and the logistics of moving waste. It is essential to minimise contamination by other materials in the PVC bins. Good planning, ongoing education and liaison with the hospital’s waste management team and contractors go a long way to overcoming these issues.

“Educational material to explain how the Program works was seen as vital. People have been used to doing things in a certain way for a long time and it will take time for people to adjust to a new system. Therefore a process of continually engaging staff in how to implement the PVC Recovery program is required,” said Macmillan.

The material in the tool kit – a short video, training slides and step by step guides – has been developed in conjunction with hospital staff, recyclers, the NSW and Victorian governments and Baxter Healthcare.

“The PVC Recovery program is about recycling PVC, saving money and using a valuable resource rather than throwing it into the tip” Dr McGain explains.

The video and copies of the guide and slides are available online at www.vinyl.org.au/PVCRecovery.

The PVC Recovery program is a resource recovery initiative of Vinyl Council of Australia developed under the PVC industry’s Product Stewardship Program. The program has been launched with the support of major partner Baxter and program partners NSW EPA, Sustainability Victoria and Liverpool Hospital.

About Vinyl Council Australia

The Vinyl Council of Australia is a members-based organisation established in June 1998. Members include manufacturers of vinyl resin, vinyl compounds, vinyl and recycled vinyl products, and suppliers of additives and services to PVC product manufacturers. The purpose of the Vinyl Council is to strengthen and advance the sustainability of the Australian PVC industry through a range of activities including the dissemination of information, research, communication, representation and promotion.

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