A groundbreaking hospital recycling project, introduced by the Southern African Vinyls Association (SAVA) in 2010, has seen the recycling of non-hazadours polyvinly chloride (PVC) waste into school shoes for disadvatanged children. The non-hazardous intravenous infusion (IV) drip bags and tubing made of PVC are being recycled into soles for school shoes.

Delanie Bezuidenhout, CEO of SAVA, says that research into the concept of “Practising green health” began in 2010, but the proposal to recycle waste from hospitals didn’t receive much support at that time.

“Fortunately, a great deal of research on this topic has taken place locally and internationally since then, with numerous examples and case studies proving that it is indeed possible and economically viable for hospitals to adopt this approach,” notes Bezuidenhout.

He adds: “Today, recycling non-hazardous medical products is being described as a ‘pioneering and collaborative’ move for the healthcare industry. Globally, PVC recycling programmes are changing the way hospitals think about reducing both their costs and their impact on the environment.

“More than 40 percent of all plastic-based disposable medical devices used in hospitals are made from high-quality PVC, which is highly recyclable. By collecting and reprocessing products such as IV bags, oxygen masks and tubing, a minimum of 2 500 t of locally recyclable material is diverted from our country’s landfills.”

South Africa currently has 33 PVC recyclers who recycle rigid and flexible PVC. As a result, over 17 000 t of PVC has been recycled into various items, such as soles, gumboots and traffic cones.

Through SAVA’s medical waste recycling drive, some 1 000 school shoes were handed over to learners at the Masakhane Tswelopele Primary School in Zandspruit.

This donation was also supported by Adcock Ingram Critical Care, Netcare and the City of Johannesburg, who have begun dealing with their uncontaminated healthcare waste in a way that creates functional new products.

Bezuidenhout says: “Thanks to funding we received from Adcock Ingram Critical Care, SAVA was able to put research into practice. Through PowerPoint presentations, practical demonstrations, videos as well as in-depth and question-and-answer sessions, we trained unit managers, head of departments, cleaning staff, nursing staff and waste management staff on how to separate and recycle non-hazardous PVC waste.

“We are very excited to see that the success of the PVC recycling programmes is changing the way hospitals think about reducing both their costs and their impact on the environment. South Africa is following the lead of countries like Australia by taking a tough approach on plastics in the belief that this could create jobs in recycling, engineering and research.

“The support we are now receiving from the medical fraternity makes it clear that hospitals and clinics are rethinking the way in which they deal with healthcare waste. They are starting to realise that recycling their non-hazardous PVC waste not only has a positive impact on curbing the costs of waste management, but it also increases their own awareness about conducting their day-to-day business in a way that is environmentally responsible and sustainable,” concludes Bezuidenhout.

To find out more about this project, visit visit www.savinyls.co.za