Recycling of hospital-specific plastic waste

Especially in the medical sector, packaging is very important for hygiene reasons and cannot simply be replaced. Plastics play an important role here, as they package consumables sterilely and efficiently with little material input. In addition, many consumables in the medical sector are also made of plastic, as this makes them easily and cheaply available in large quantities. That is why it is hard to imagine life without plastics - however, the question arises as to whether plastic waste cannot also be recycled here.
Therefore, the aim of the HospiCycle project is to investigate the feasibility of recycling plastic waste in hospitals and to recycle packaging that would otherwise not be recycled or only unspecifically. The project, led by the Transfercenter für Kunststofftechnik (TCKT), started in July 2021. The Oberösterreichische Gesundheitsholding (OÖG, clinic operator), ARA (waste management, clarification of waste law issues), Walter Kunststoffe (recycler, processing of material flows) and Greiner Packaging (packaging manufacturer, user of recyclates) are also part of the project team.
In a first step, the plastic waste generated in hospitals was examined. For this purpose, the contents of 150 waste bags of plastic waste were analysed in three hospitals (Vöcklabruck, Steyr and Linz). From the more than 160 different items collected, several items were selected that are of interest for separate recycling, and that are generated in corresponding quantities. These comprise a quantity of about 40 % of the total plastic waste. In order to be able to collect these items separately from the rest of the plastic waste, OÖG developed a concept for disposing of the items separately on the wards without additional work for the hospital staff.
The waste collected in this way in a first trial was cleaned and shredded at the TCKT. Plastic granulates were then produced from this by melting and extruding, and their properties were subsequently analysed. Due to the good sorting, it was possible to produce high-quality recyclates from the waste in the first tests. Depending on the quality, the material will eventually be used to produce plastic articles again.

The HospiCycle project is supported with funds from the Upper Austrian government within the "Stimulierung von Kooperationen zur Umsetzung von kooperativen Forschungs- und Entwicklungsvorhaben" guideline.