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June 2016

2 people with plastic bench seat jpeg
Western Health sustainability officer Catherine O’Shea and instrument technician Carlos Paciocco with products from recycled medical plastic.

Recycling – from facemasks to furniture

Western Health has slashed its plastic waste through recycling programs that turn medical plastic into furniture and garden hoses.

The programs have led to a 35 per cent drop in the amount of waste Western Health sends to landfill each year.

The PVC Recovery in Hospitals Program is one of the most successful.

It was created by Dr Forbes McGain, a Western health anaesthetist, who was concerned about the amount of plastic hospital items thrown into the rubbish.

Dr McGain collaborated with the Vinyl Council of Australia to develop the PVC recycling program, which collects high-grade, clear plastic hospital items such as used facemasks, oxygen tubing and irrigation bags for intravenous fluids.

The used items, which are clean and uncontaminated, are then recycled by a plastics manufacturer and turned into products such as garden hoses and children’s play mats.

More than 24 hospitals in the Asia Pacific region have adopted the PVC recycling program since it was developed at Western Health, according to the Vinyl Council of Australia.

Under another innovative program, Western Health teamed up with a local Laverton manufacturer to establish a recycling stream for other types of clean medical plastic.

The program collects soft plastics used in medical packaging and recycles them into products such as furniture, bollards and speed humps.

Four recycled bench seats have been installed at Sunshine Hospital, made from plastic packaging and blue polypropylene sterile wrap previously used to package new theatre gowns and medical equipment.

Western Health was one of the first health services to introduce the soft plastics recycling program.

Western Health sustainability officer Catherine O’Shea said the health service had piloted and rolled out more than a dozen recycling programs since 2011.

She said critical care services – operating theatres, intensive care units, day patient units and cardiac labs – produced about 20 per cent of Western Health’s hospital waste, including plastic waste.

Staff in these services helped to recycle six tonnes of wrapping and soft plastics each year.