PVCMed Alliance and PVC Information Council Denmark participate in a project supported by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency where used oxygen masks are collected and treated with supercritical CO2 technology before recycling.
The modern healthcare system we take for granted would be unthinkable without plastic. Plastics are everywhere in hospitals and medical clinics, from oxygen masks and tubing over blood bags to high-tech scanners and radiation therapy machines. The majority of disposable medical devices are made of PVC, which is well suited for recycling. Already today, used PVC-based medical devices are being collected and recycled in a number of countries around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England. A project supported by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency is currently investigating the possibilities for similar schemes in Denmark.
PVCMed Alliance and PVC Information Council Danmark are participating in the project where anesthesia nurses at Rigshospitalet Glostrup in Copenhagen will collect used PVC oxygen masks for recycling over a period of two months. After collection, the masks will be treated with so-called supercritical CO2 technology at the Danish Technological Institute. Here the additives are removed from the masks, and after treatment the plastic can be used as raw material for new products.
According to PVCMed Alliance Project Manager Ole Grøndahl Hansen this is the right way to go: “PVC is easily recyclable, and especially the PVC used for medical devices offers a high quality recyclate that can be used in a wide range of new products. Furthermore, medical plastics are advantageous for recycling companies, as hospitals know exactly how many medical devices such as oxygen masks are used in a hospital within a certain period. It provides security of supply, which is important for recyclers.“
But what about the risk of infection? Ole Grøndahl Hansen elaborates: “Although the debate about circular economy and plastic has been going on for a long time, health care has been kept out due to fear of infection risk. However, experience from Australia and New Zealand, where around 200 hospitals are part of a recycling scheme for used PVC-based medical equipment, show that there is no risk to patients, staff or the waste recycling companies. Hospitals have good control over which patients could pose a contagion risk, and of course do not collect medical equipment used on these patients. ”
Supercritical CO2 technology is already used in other industries today, so there are great prospects if, as expected, the Danish Technological Institute is successful in applying the technology to the medical waste. The technology works on a large scale and it is not complicated to calculate the cost of constructing plants for the treatment of PVC waste from the healthcare sector. In addition, the process could potentially be applied to other soft PVC waste fractions.
Project participants are PVCMed Alliance, PVC Information Council, Danish Technological Institute, AMBU, SP Extrusion and the Capital Region of Denmark.