Recycling PVC-based medical devices

The medical and healthcare industry has been kept out of the circular economy for a long time out of fear of contamination. However, pilot projects around the world have proved that this no longer has to be the case.

These projects have proved that it is safe to recycle used medical devices without creating a risk for patients, staff or recyclers. However, these successful projects all have one thing in common; they only collect PVC-based medical devices. This is due to the fact that PVC is the most widely used plastic in the healthcare sector and can be recycled into various useful products.

Recycling is often hindered as the products are made from different and inseparable polymers, contains non-plastic parts or contains additives of concern. Therefore, in order for the PVC-based medical device to be recycled, it has to be made from a single polymer. Even if the device has multiple layers in the same polymer, the quality of the recycled end product will suffer.

A device made from different polymers is extremely difficult to recycle due to their different processing temperatures. However, due to PVC’s unique properties, it is the ideal polymer for designing single layer medical devices.

PVC can also be recycled multiple times without losing its properties or need to add non-recycled material. PVC is, therefore, the perfect material for medical devices as it can be made in varying degrees of softness.

Unfortunately, there is a PVC-free medical devices trend emerging in the healthcare sector. This trend sees the switching from a single-polymer design to a multi-layer device. This, therefore, means that these devices will not be recyclable or will be very difficult to recycle. By making use of PVC-based medical devices, the products can be easily and effectively recycled without introducing any risk. It also means that the healthcare industry will be able to reduce their impact on the environment.

The medical sector needs to stop referring to PVC as less desirable when it comes to their medical devices because the material fulfils the requirements for the medical devices and help to reduce the carbon footprint of the industry.

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