Recyclable PVC to remain polymer of choice for medical devices
The high volume and PVC’s unique recyclability indicate that hospitals should start with PVC in recycling schemes for plastics-based medical devices.
Almost 30% of the plastics-based medical devices are manufactured in PVC, which makes the material the most used polymer for bags, tubing, masks and other disposable medical devices. The remaining share is divided between ten different polymers. This is one of the key findings in a new market study conducted by Global Market Insights Inc., a global market research and management consulting company. The study also forecasts that PVC will retain its number one position until at least 2027.
PVC is easily recyclable and so versatile that devices which require both soft and rigid parts can be made entirely of one polymer – a key to successful plastic recycling. The high volume and PVC’s unique recyclability indicate that hospitals should start with this plastic material when they consider recycling schemes for their medical plastic waste.
PVCMed Alliance Project Manager Ole Grøndahl Hansen comments on the new findings: “COVID-19 has highlighted the crucial role played by single-use plastic medical devices in the prevention and control of infection in hospitals. The negative side-effect of this success has been growing amounts of hospital plastic waste. We believe recycling is part of the solution. Fortunately, the most used plastic in healthcare is also the most recyclable plastic, and we therefore urge hospitals to start their recycling activities with PVC.”
The presence of CMR substances in some PVC devices has thus far been a barrier to recycling of medical PVC. According to Ole Grøndahl Hansen this challenge has now been solved: “For almost all applications, alternative plasticizers for PVC are available and are being used. Four of these are now included in the European Pharmacopeia, which sets the safety and quality guidelines for medical products in Europe and beyond.”
The European PVC industry, through VinylPlus, has invested in recycling of PVC medical devices since 2014 when the RecoMed take back scheme was established in the UK. The scheme was inspired by the successful PVC in hospitals recycling project in Australia and New Zealand, which involves over 250 hospitals.
In February 2021, VinylPlus launched a collaborative project called VinylPlus® Med. Aimed at accelerating sustainability in healthcare across Europe through the recycling of discarded single-use PVC medical devices, the project brings together hospitals, waste managers, recyclers and the PVC industry in some selected European countries.
The scheme will focus on the production of PVC recyclates free of substances of concerns that can be included into a wide range of value products marketed across Europe. Belgium is chosen as pilot country with The Europe Hospitals, Renewi (waste management company) and Raff Plastics (recycler) as partners. The built-up of additional programmes is underway in other European countries.