Plastic materials used in hospitals and health care centers are rarely recycled, with a recovery rate of less than 14% in 2013, according to BCC, a market intelligence firm in Wellesley, Massachusetts. And since 2013, the recovery rate is unlikely to change significantly. In addition, according to an article entitled Medical Plastics: Undeveloped Materials, Undeveloped Business Opportunities, Medical Plastics is an untapped business opportunity for hospitals and recyclers. In fact, Ravago, the recycling group, told the author Alison Bryant: "Medical plastics are the last large, untapped material stream that has tremendous potential for recyclers and alternative processors."
Hospitals and recyclers are encouraged to cooperate for the following reasons: on the one hand, hospitals need to spend a lot of money on disposing of medical materials that may eventually be put into landfills or incinerated. And recyclers can't get those materials, which is bad for both sides. In addition, Bryant pointed out in the article that the quality of medical grade plastics is generally high, and there is little difference in melt fluidity, viscosity and tensile strength. Over time, the composition of medical plastics changed little.
In early 2017, the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) and the Medical Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC) organized a number of hospital plastic recycling projects in the Chicago area. The research results show that it is difficult to sort out recyclable materials in hospital environment. At present, the recovery of medical plastics has no economic value.
Another challenge to reclaim medical plastics is the "ick" factor. Bryant pointed out: "a common misconception of medical plastics is its potential safety hazard. In fact, medical plastics themselves do not carry any germs, so-called potential safety hazards are due to its biological hazards, drugs and other unsafe materials caused by contact with the dangers. Most medical plastics are processed before they enter the room. Therefore, the most important thing is to change the wrong perception of the public.
"At present, there is not enough medical plastics to carry out circular economy, and there is no end market for recycled medical plastics. In addition, as long as the price of raw materials remains low, there will not be a lot of power to recycle medical plastics.