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What Medical Waste Can Be Recycled?

December 17, 2020

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What Medical Waste Can Be Recycled?

What Medical Waste Can Be Recycled? A majority of medical waste that is created is actually not hazardous. WHO (The World Health Organization) has estimated that 85% of medical waste falls into this category. However, even non-hazardous medical waste must comply with specific guidelines and this can make any attempt at recycling rather difficult. This is especially true because some guidelines that have been established enter into gray areas that don’t include specific rules against recycling, while others are free to recycle. As landfills continue to have more and more waste added, it makes sense to try to recycle some medical waste.

Reusing Single-Use Devices

Over the last number of years there has been a growing increase in “single-use” devices. The definition of a single-use device is created by the device manufacturer. The FDA (Federal Drug Administration) only requires that an organization using the device must show that it has been properly cleaned and sterilized, that the device quality and physical characteristics haven’t been compromised, and that the device is safe and effective in the case of reuse. Reusing single use devices not only offers a financial savings but it also keeps tons of medical waste out of the community landfills.

Some Plastics and Packaging

There are certain plastics such as plastic bags that can be recycled, however, they  must be cleaned and sterilized, and will have to be melted down. There are other plastics and cardboard that are used in packaging that are completely recyclable, as well as many paper products in general. After sterilizing and melting down plastics they can be retooled into other plastic products. Just some of the types of recyclable plastics include:

New Green Organizations

There are now some new organizations that are creating products made from recycled medical waste as well as those that have been established to work with medical waste generators to reformulate products so that they change the contents of kits to include only what is really needed.  One of the biggest trends has been sending out items that were previously not considered as recyclable so that they can be broken down. Items such as linens, rechargeable batteries, and metals are retrieved and repurposed. Others are transitioned into scrap where they are then turned into other parts.

Changes In What Is Defined as Recyclable

In the past, a majority of the non-hazardous medical waste was simply thrown out with regular trash. This included many things that, under any other circumstances, would be included in the recycling bins. Training staff to rethink what is considered to be recyclable so that they add them to the proper recycle bins assists in the reduction of waste and contributes to the materials that are recycled.

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