PVC goes full circle: From medical devices to hospital wall covering
The 1st anniversary of VinylPlus® Med showcased how a successful partnership between hospitals, waste management companies, recyclers and plastic converters can turn hospital plastic waste into durable hospital products.
One year after collection of PVC medical devices began at Europe Hospitals in Brussels (BE), the same hospital hosted a ceremony to celebrate the successful VinylPlus® Med recycling project that has since spread to 10 hospitals all over Belgium. The equivalent of 35,000 masks could be kept away from incineration so far.
The event attracted political decision makers, the local mayor and members of the Brussels Parliament, representatives from the Belgian hospitals, and media. Also present, the VinylPlus® Med partners Renewi (waste management company) and Raff Plastics (plastic recycler) could witness the first product made from the collected PVC: a high esthetic wall covering for hospitals that incorporates recycled PVC produced by Vescom, a major player in high-quality interior products for the international contract market.
After the opening by Brigitte Dero, Managing Director of VinylPlus®, and Evelyn Vass, Director of Operations at Europe Hospitals, PVCMed Alliance Project Manager Ole Grøndahl Hansen gave a brief introduction to PVC in healthcare.
Mr. Hansen started by reminding the audience of the revolution that PVC and plastics resulted in after they were introduced in form of safe blood bags during the 1950s. Since then, affordable PVC tubing, oxygen masks, IV bags, vinyl floor covering and thousands of other PVC-based medical applications have made healthcare safer, better, and more inclusive.
Though the polymer remains controversial, market studies show it is the most used material for disposable medical devices and will remain so in the years to come. This is due to the plastic’s unique functional properties, low cost, and recyclability, proven by the VinylPlus® Med project.
In the Q&A session, Mr. Hansen gave factual answers to various claims on PVC by NGOs. An example of misinformation is the often-repeated statement that PVC is the least recyclable plastic.
Mr. Hansen said that in contrast to thermosets, which cannot be recycled after processing, PVC is a thermoplastic. Thermoplastics can be melted and reprocessed, and studies show PVC can be recycled 8 to 10 times, Mr. Hansen said.
VinylPlus® Med Project Leader Vincent Stone and Recycling Consultant Inge Dewitte continued by presenting the challenges and opportunities of implementing recycling programmes for PVC waste in healthcare settings.
To ensure that only REACH-compliant PVC waste is recycled, Mr. Stone showed a new Near Infrared scanner developed with the Italian spin off Phoenix RTO, to differentiate between PVC and other polymers and detect the presence of ortho-phthalates.
The event ended with a cake cutting ceremony and closing remarks by the Mayor of Uccle Boris Dilliès, who congratulated all partners and hospitals for their commitment to make healthcare in Brussels and beyond more sustainable.
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