Medical technology company, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), and Casella Waste Systems, a solid waste, recycling and resource management services company, today announced the results of a recycling pilot to manage discarded syringes and needles. The pilot led to 40,000 pounds of medical waste being recycled and diverted from disposal.
Health care facilities are a major consumer of syringes, which have been particularly difficult to recycle due to the various components and steps involved in the process, including safe handling of medical waste and treating and sterilizing materials before they can be re-introduced for recycling. The recycling pilot helps address a historic challenge within the health care industry – which generates more than 3 billion pounds of plastic waste in the U.S. alone.
The circular economy pilot, which took place in the first half of 2023, was the first large-scale effort to assess the feasibility of recycling medical waste found in red sharps containers. These containers included a broad range of medical equipment and materials, primarily syringes and needles.
The medical waste was collected across a variety of health care facilities and all of the plastics were diverted from disposal and recycled. The pilot also assessed technical feasibility of two types of technology – mechanical and advanced recycling – both showing favorable results in their ability to successfully recycle used medical devices for use in other products.
The next stage of the pilot program will expand regionally to additional hospitals and non-acute care facilities. The teams will also increase focus to cover other types of medical materials for recycling, as well as reclaiming the used devices and returning them to the manufacturing process.
 Rizan C, Mortimer F, Stancliffe R, Bhutta MF. Plastics in healthcare: time for a re-evaluation. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 2020;113(2):49-53. doi:10.1177/0141076819890554