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Is polypropylene recyclable?

Is polypropylene recyclable?

In short, generally yes – polypropylene is widely recyclable. However, there’s a misconception that healthcare wraps and polypropylene curtains can’t be recycled. This actually isn’t the case. There’s a service available that provides a handy solution for recycling these healthcare consumables. The Sterimelt service provided by TCG recycles by melting the polypropylene. It then converts it into neatly packed plastic blocks. We looked into how this service works – we have outlined in this article why this is vital for hospitals and other healthcare providers.

100,000s of items made of polypropylene are in use at any one time, in hospitals across the country. These include healthcare consumables such as disposable cubicle curtains, disposable slide sheets and disposable transfer sheets.  The terminology “disposable” may be misleading however, as you may assume they are disposed of and possibly (hopefully) recycled after each use. This isn’t the case.

Each NHS Trust has their own Waste Management Policy which outlines how often these items are disposed of. For example, some Trusts change the cubicle curtains every 3 months, but some only change them every 6 months. Relying on the curtains’ antimicrobial coating, they remain in use until they are either visibly soiled or used by a patient with infections.

What typically happens today

Disappointingly, the majority of hospital-used polypropylene consumables are currently disposed of by incineration without energy recovery. Alternatively they are just sent to a landfill site. Disposal by incineration should be the last resort, as outlined by the Department of Environment’s policy. The Government encourage recycling as much uncontaminated healthcare waste as possible. Finding beneficial uses for waste include, in order of preference: recycling to produce a usable product, composting or recovering energy from it.

Benefits of this service

Therefore, eco-friendly healthcare providers aiming to recycle more will be interested to find out about this service. TCG provide the Sterimelt machine as an in-house installation so that staff can do it themselves on-site. This provides convenience and achieves lower costs in the longer term. Alternatively, the bagged waste polypropylene items could be sent to TCG to be recycled there, if a trial is required first.

The unexpected upside of this melting & recycling process is that you then have plastic blocks to sell. These blocks can be sold to be used in the manufacture of plastic goods. As it also provides an additional revenue stream, this solution ticks more than one box!

In addition to the current award-winning Sterimelt machine, the team at TCG also inform us that they’re busy preparing another launch! They’re finalising some alternative prototype trials for sustainably recycling polypropylene curtains at the end of their life.

Find out more about the Sterimelt machine


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