So far, only a few medical products have been recycled in terms of material recovery. The previous processes are mostly based on a purely thermal treatment in household waste incineration. The metallic residues are only sorted to a small extent into steel and non-ferrous metals. This means that only medical devices with a high metal content can partially be returned to the economic cycle. Valuable raw materials are lost in the process.

The Fraunhofer IWKS and the IRED Institute want to bundle their know-how in the recycling of medically used products and are starting the new cooperation platform “Medical Product Recycling Initiative” (MePPRI). The aim of the platform is to sensitize all stakeholders involved – from users such as hospitals, to waste disposal logisticians and recycling companies, to decision-makers from politics – for the topic. The platform serves as the basis for knowledge transfer and the collection of reliable data.

Explants, endoscopes and electrophysiological devices

So far, in Germany it has not been precisely recorded which types and quantities of medical devices with which recycling potential arise. In addition, there is a lack of clear legal framework conditions. For example, requirements for health and safety at work are in conflict with the Recycling Act and the Commercial Waste Ordinance.

Among other things, IRED and Fraunhofer IWKS have already developed a process for high-quality recycling of single-use surgical instruments. Based on this know-how, new approaches are to be created with the platform in order to expand this to other medical devices such as explants, endoscopes and electrophysiological devices. Both institutes not only contribute experience, data and equipment, they also cover a wide variety of aspects of recycling: from analysis to sorting to the recycling-optimized redesign of medical products.

On the way to the “Clinic” waste bin

In order to fill the platform with life and to work out the requirements for material recycling, the cooperation partners implement the following measures:

  • Identify the stakeholders. Cooperation with those involved from the areas of hospital supply, hospital operation, logistics & disposal and recycling research.
  • Recording and evaluation of the specific “clinical” existing substances within the framework of existing disposal and recycling structures.
  • Development of economical disposal concepts with the participation of the formal waste producers and recycling partners.
  • Involvement of the licensing authorities. Possibly adaptation of national waste, labor and health protection regulations in order to promote circular economy processes legislatively or at the administrative level (implementing ordinances)
  • Establishment of a material, product and manufacturer-independent and logistically sustainable collection system (recycling bin “clinic”) that meets the requirements of occupational health and safety.

A survey on data collection at clinics has already started.

Visit klinik-einkauf for more.
English translation courtesy of AMDR