For the scheme to be successful at both individual hospital and national levels, everyone involved has a part to play in making sure the material we collect isn’t contaminated.
What counts as contamination?
A bin will be contaminated if it contains any PVC waste that isn’t clean or any non-PVC waste. This might include other clinical plastics waste, other recyclables such as paper and drinks cans, and any general waste.
Why is contamination a problem?
Contamination is a problem for three reasons.
First, it puts the safety of hospital and PVC processing plant staff at risk.
Second, it threatens the viability of the scheme. The operation only works for our recycling partners if they can rely on the integrity of the material coming through.
Third, contamination undermines the efforts of all those staff who are doing the right thing.
The consequences of contamination
Contamination can have immediate consequences for the hospital concerned and put the entire scheme at risk.
At individual hospital level, if porters spot items in a bin that shouldn’t be there, they will need to put the whole bag in clinical waste bins for disposal. This means the hospital loses the waste disposal cost savings they would have made if the bag went to RecoMed. It also, of course, means that recycling volumes are lower.
Where we find evidence of ongoing contamination from an individual hospital or from a particular clinical area within a hospital, we can ask the hospital or area to withdraw from the scheme altogether.
At scheme level, ongoing contamination in general could mean the PVC reprocessors decide to pull out. The scheme would come to an end, and we would be back to landfill or incineration as the only options for disposing of PVC devices.
The value in the material and the cost savings gained by recycling would then be lost.
How to avoid contamination
To avoid contamination, RecoMed best practice needs to become habit.
You can build up good anti-contamination habits with the following six steps:
- Use the labels we provide – these show the items in each setting that can go in the bin.
- Place the bins close to where the masks usually become waste, but as far away as possible from other bins.
- Encourage facilities staff to be on the lookout and to tell clinical staff of any problems.
- Include RecoMed bins in waste audits.
- Ask us to provide training for clinical staff.
- Give regular reminders. Mentions at shift changes are useful prompts, and clinical governance. days give further opportunities for review and updates.
Sustainability or recycling champions can be very effective at helping embed RecoMed into day-to-day processes. If you don’t yet have a champion, recruit one!