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Healthcare green drives target polypropylene blue wrap

Healthcare green drives target polypropylene blue wrap
Use of polypropylene in sterilization blue wrap has proliferated in recent years, but the material is now in the crosshairs of health care officials anxious to reduce costs and improve recycling rates. Regulated medical waste costs six to ten times more in disposal costs than municipal solid waste.

Use of polypropylene in sterilization blue wrap has proliferated in recent years, but the material is now in the crosshairs of health care officials anxious to reduce costs and improve recycling rates. Regulated medical waste costs six to ten times more in disposal costs than municipal solid waste.

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Colorful pallets are one use of OR waste. (KC)
One example is St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth, MN, which says it can reduce blue wrap waste by 5.4 tons and save almost $100,000 annually by recycling blue wrap.

The material is used to protect patient gowns, medical devices, and surgical instruments from contamination. It has become ubiquitous in operating rooms because of its ability to resist tearing and provide a barrier to prevent contamination following sterilization. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates it accounts for 19% of all operating room waste.

And blue wrap is an ideal candidate for recycling because it is not contaminated and can be collected at a small number of sites in hospitals.

Kimberly-Clark Healthcare, a leading supplier, launched a program called Blue ReNew earlier this year to promote blue wrap recycling.

"Our short-term goal is to help facilitate a Blue ReNew Wrap recycling program for every hospital who is interested by helping them assess their own internal infrastructure as well as their external partners so that when they are ready to recycle, they are aligned for success and longevity," Jane Hart, the sustainability leader for Kimberly-Clark Healthcare told Plastics Today.

She said it takes about 6 months to help a hospital align their partners and start recycling. "The system improves over time with an overall goal that we set of recycling 60% of the material. This may take several years to achieve as the discipline of collection is a key factor to success."

Polypropylene wrap recycled today is being re-used to make flower pots, park benches, trash cans, shipping pallets, and construction materials.  More sophisticated applications are possible because of the high-quality of the recycled material.

The material cannot be re-used as sterilization wrap, said Hart. "Reuse of this product or remanufacturing of the pellets into new sterilization wrap is prevented by regulations at this time."

Another strategy to reduce blue wrap waste is to convert to reusable sterilization containers for medical devices. Metro West Medical Center in Framingham, MA, for example, purchased 211 containers and projects five-year savings of $84,000.

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