Hospitals are huge sources of waste, and are increasingly interested in developing more sustainable strategies. One major shot across the bow was an announcement last month by Kaiser Permanente that it will no longer use PVC in tubing and bags.
Beckton, Dickinson, a global medical products company and major captive injection molder, is in the second year of a program called the BD ecoFinity Life Cycle Solution to recycle more than 200,000 lbs of medical plastic waste per year into a new product called BD Recykleen Sharps Containers. The product is on sale for $32.56. The containers are manufactured in Oceanside, Calif.
A little more than a year ago, BD (Franklin Lakes, NJ) and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego announced a pilot program designed to divert a significant percentage of BD sharps waste from landfills and re-use the recycled materials.
The program is a reaction in part to growing use of single-use, disposable medical devices such as needles and syringes, which provide protection from the spread of infections. In some cases, disposable devices are even less expensive than devices that must be re-sterilized, requiring inventory management and robust materials.
“This environmentally friendly solution to disposing of sharps wastes falls perfectly in line with our hospital initiatives to reduce, reuse and recycle,” said Randy Veenstra, Green Team leader at Rady Children’s. “We estimate that, thanks to this program, 38,000 pounds of sharps waste that might have been sent to a landfill will be recycled.”
Based on initial tests, BD believes that more than 70% of its overall sharps waste may ultimately be recovered and recycled for use in new products. This novel pilot program, developed in collaboration with Waste Management (WM), the largest waste management and recycling company in North America, uses BD Sharps Containers as aggregation points for the collection of sharps waste. Waste Management collects filled sharps containers at the hospital, transports the material to a nearby WM facility, treats it to eliminate any potential biohazard and sends it to a local recycling company for raw material recovery. BD then incorporates these post-hospital recycled materials, along with recycled materials from other sources, into new BD Recykleen container products. BD plans to sell excess recycled materials that cannot be used in BD products to other recyclers.
BD Medical’s principal product lines include needles, syringes and intravenous catheters for medication delivery (including safety-engineered and auto-disable devices); prefilled IV flush syringes; syringes and pen needles for the self-injection of insulin and other drugs used in the treatment of diabetes; prefillable drug delivery systems provided to pharmaceutical companies and sold to end-users as drug/device combinations; regional anesthesia needles and trays; sharps disposal containers; and closed-system transfer devices.
Interestingly, BD’s historical position as a captive molder put it in a position to re-use plastic waste. Many medical products manufacturers are increasingly eschewing injection molding and are outsourcing manufacturing, assembly, and even some design. Engineers at BD have presented papers at technical conferences on innovations, such as micro parts. According to one industry source, BD operates more than 2,000 injection molding machines, making it possibly the largest single molder in North America.