Healthcare plastics and glass aggregate breakthroughs win Recycling Innovators Forum prizes

Plastic Packaging Perspectives

Two winners emerged from the groundbreaking ideas presented at the second annual Recycling Innovators Forum – a plan to scale healthcare plastics recycling to a regional level, and a color-coded, multi-purpose glass aggregate.

healthcare plastics recycling innovators

Forum finalists

The Recycling Innovators Forum was held in New Orleans on Sept. 15, 2014, co-located with the 2014 Resource Recycling Conference. Eight finalists selected from more than 60 entries competed for the top $20,000 prize awarded in each of two categories.

Ruby Lake Glass LLC won the garage innovator prize for its manufacture of color-coated recycled glass useful for road demarcation, mulch, flooring, tile and countertops, pools, and crafts and artwork.

The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council won the enterprise/institution prize for its Regional Healthcare Plastics Recycling Demonstration Project. By mid-2015, the project will convene several hospitals and a recycler in one region to demonstrate large-scale opportunities for recovering and recycling non-infectious healthcare plastics.

“Being able to communicate and articulate this opportunity to the recycling community through the Recycling Innovators Forum is part of our goal,” said Peylina Chu, senior consultant at environmental consultancy Antea Group, who gave HPRC’s presentation. “This can be a model for how to build a healthcare recycling program in any major metropolitan area.”

Learn more about the Regional Healthcare Plastics Recycling Demonstration Project, its goals, and lessons learned from local pilot studies in our previous post.

Plastic Packaging: The Silent Hero Behind Your Fresh Cup of Coffee

Plastic Packaging Perspectives

coffee plastic packagingSeptember 29th is National Coffee Day. But let’s face it, for many Americans, no national day is needed to validate the importance of the brew. According to the National Coffee Association, Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee each day.   Some of us don’t even consider the day as officially starting, until we’ve had that first cup of Joe. Whether your preference is espresso, latte, frappe, or just plain old coffee, it’s a beverage at the very heart of many people’s daily lives.  40% of 18-24 year olds said they drink coffee daily, while 54% of 25-39 year olds said they drink coffee daily. [1] If you grab your coffee on the go, chances are, its staying hot while your hand stays cool thanks to a polystyrene foam cup—like the kind you get at most fast food restaurants. In celebration of National Coffee Day, and the foam cup’s role in delivering so much of the java we love, our good friends at the Polystyrene Foam Food Service Group posted a very cool blog with info on polystyrene foam food packaging. Check it out. And, want to see more cool coffee packaging? Check out our new coffee packaging Pinterest board, celebrating coffee– fresh to you, with a little help from plastic packaging!


[1] Specialty Coffee Association of America, Facts and Figures, 2012

Exciting Opportunities Emerging from Innovations in Healthcare Plastics Recycling

Plastic Packaging Perspectives

The Recycling Innovators Forum, held in conjunction with the Resource Recycling Conference in New Orleans on September 15, 2014, showcases groundbreaking initiatives that are moving recycling forward. One of the forum finalists is the Regional Healthcare Plastics Recycling Demonstration Project, designed to address the one million tons of non-infectious, high-quality medical plastic now streaming into landfills. Since 2010, the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council has conducted small local studies of healthcare plastics recycling. Now, the effort has expanded into the Regional Healthcare Plastics Recycling Demonstration Project, ready to demonstrate on a larger scale the enormous potential for packaging manufacturers and designers, recyclers, hospitals, and communities.

Recyclable medical plastics: A broad range of packaging

The regional project is meant to drive, inspire, and enable the recycling potential of certain healthcare and medical plastics. Many hospitals are recovering and recycling their cafeteria plastics, but a huge amount of non-infectious materials from operating rooms and clinical and patient care areas remains destined for landfills:

blue wrap healthcare plastics packaging

Blue wrap

  • These products are made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polypropylene (PP), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and polystyrene (PS).
  • Flexible plastics, constituting about 75 percent of this noninfectious healthcare waste stream, include easily identifiable sterilization wrap, or blue wrap. They can also include secondary and tertiary packaging, such as plastic shrink wrap and outer wrap.
  • Rigid plastics form the remaining 25 percent or so. This segment includes polypropylene basins, trays, and bottles for such items as medical instruments or saline solution.

Pilot-test lessons: Identifying and collecting recyclable healthcare plastics

Healthcare Plastic Recycling Council’s pilot studies with three individual hospitals have yielded best practices that can be scaled up for maximum impact:


At the Stanford pilot study, bag color signals waste stream in procedural areas.

  • Cleveland Clinic: Working with operating room “green teams,” the project identified medical plastics for recycling along with safe collection methods.
  • Stanford University Medical Center: This pilot study identified recyclable plastics in nine hospital areas and found that operating rooms generated 40 percent of its total noninfectious healthcare plastics waste. Based on data to date it is expected that the hospital will collect 70 tons of plastics over a year.
  • Kaiser Permanente: Still underway as of September 2014, this pilot is mapping plastics throughout Kaiser’s Los Angeles medical facility – identifying plastics to recycle, tracking their entry into and movement through the hospital, and determining recovery and transfer methods.

The pilot studies resulted in a plastics-recycling toolkit for hospitals, known as HospiCycle. This toolkit explains the economic, regulatory, resourcing and infrastructure nuances of recycling and helps hospitals integrate recycling practices into patient care settings.

Regionalization: Enormous impact for medical systems, recycling community, and packaging industry

Putting healthcare plastics under the microscope at the local level has revealed the huge potential for recovery and recycling. The larger regional project will convene four to six large hospitals and a single interested recycler, identified through the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), in a major Midwest or Southwest city. Success of this regional project, slated to begin collecting materials by the second quarter of 2015, relies on close partnerships among the participating recycler and hospitals. Together, they will address such challenges as segregating or single-streaming recyclables, minimizing contamination, and developing contingency plans in case of contamination. The regional goal is to develop a business case for the economic and technical feasibility of implementation, with a focus on two central questions: What are the critical numbers needed to achieve viable expansion? And how do we develop the model that gets us there? By engaging the entire value chain, the regional project expects to produce major benefits for several players:

  • Health systems: The project is identifying recyclable medical plastics, detailing their financial value, and facilitating their entry into the recycling stream. Spotlighting health systems as good community partners committed to diverting plastics away from landfills is an important side benefit.
  • Recycling community: Working with the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) and SPI, the regional project has discovered tremendous interest among recyclers. These recyclers envision a new source of materials to feed rising demand for products made from recycled content. To help them keep pace, the regional project hopes to create an additional toolkit, similar to HospiCycle, offering best practices in healthcare recycling for recyclers.
  • Packaging industry: The project has yielded design guidance to help medical packaging makers employ design decisions that enhance recycling potential and value.

At the Recycling Innovators Forum: Raising awareness and building partnerships

The Recycling Innovators Forum is a prominent venue for inventors and organizations sharing their game-changing ideas with industry leaders.

The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council hopes its appearance at the forum will attract new partners and sponsors. Perhaps more importantly, presenting as a forum finalist will allow the council to articulate its vision to the entire recycling community. The Regional Healthcare Plastics Recycling Demonstration Project is planning to capitalize on a huge source of recyclable plastics and fuel further plastic innovations to benefit health systems, the recycling and packaging industries, and communities across the nation. To learn more or get involved in the Regional Healthcare Plastics Recycling Demonstration Project, contact Peylina Chu, the Operations Director at the HPRC.

Plasticity 2014: A forum for ideas to advance progress in plastics recovery and recycling

Steve Russell

Leaders from a wide range of interests ranging from plastics makers to consumer product companies and the sustainability community recently met in New York at Plasticity Forum 2014 to discuss how to minimize waste and harvest the value from use plastic waste streams.

A common theme among the presentations–   including my own – was that important advances are being made in plastics recovery and recycling, such as converting non-recycled plastics into energy.


Plasticity Forum 2014

Plastics may be fairly new to recycling, but retailers, brands, and plastics makers are working together to catch up quickly. Speakers at Plasticity 2014 reported on significant leaps in the types and amounts of plastics recycled and innovative new technologies that can recover the energy value in plastics. Below are some highlights from the event:

  • Former NYC “Recycling Czar” Ron Gonen (now CEO of The Closed Loop Fund) shared his work on increasing collection rates, providing zero-interest loans for municipal recycling infrastructure, and investing in private waste reduction and recycling companies.
  • Edmonton, Alberta’s waste management technical specialist wowed the crowd with that city’s integrated waste-management goal of sending no more than 1% of plastics to landfills.
  • An expert at the forefront of pyrolysis technology talked about converting non-recycled plastics into oil.

To read more about the inspiration discussed at Plasticity 2014, check out my full blog post.

SAVE FOOD: Tracking the Reduction of Food Waste

Yasmin Siddiqi

I had the honor of representing DuPont at a recent SAVE FOOD event at Interpack.

If you haven’t heard the cry emanating from the fact that one third of the food the world produces is lost or wasted, you certainly heard it there as speaker after speaker emphasized not only the issue, but challenged the packaging industry to step up.

And I would add that we need to step up together and not just the packaging industry, but all along the value chain.

Exploring where food is lost and wasted is paramount to identifying solutions. And so is collaboration.  So as we go forward as an industry we need to do more than share ideas – we need to make this issue a priority.  Packaging clearly plays an important role in the fighting food waste.  Let’s break preconceived notions and find ways where possibly more, but better, packaging rather than less makes an impact.  Let’s prioritize technological innovations like active and intelligent packaging, or oxygen-barrier and sealing technologies to keep food fresh longer.  And let’s be creative all along the value chain and find solutions that start with farming methods and run all the way through the value chain as a means to improve food security around the world.

This is a long road with many challenges – something that the packaging industry can “sink its teeth into.”

five stages of food waste infographic

For more on how packaging can help reduce food waste, check out a recent blog post by celebrity chef and TV personality Duff Goldman, from our friends at Plastics Make it Possible®.