The Vinyl Council of Australia (VCA) welcomes the Federal Labor Government’s addition of plastics in healthcare products to the Minister’s product stewardship priority list for 2022-23, which was announced this week by Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek as part of National Recycling Week.
Along with other additions to the priority list of tyres and mattresses, the addition of plastics in healthcare products to the Minister’s stewardship priority list ensures that the makers and importers of these items must take responsibility for the impacts of the products on the environment across their entire life cycle. Going above and beyond simply recycling them, producers and importers of plastic products for healthcare will now have to consider how the development, design, manufacture, import, sale, use and recovery of these materials and products can be adjusted to improve environmental outcomes.
With PVC being the most commonly used plastic polymer across a wide range of applications in the healthcare industry the importance of implementing sound recycling and stewardship initiatives for medical PVC products has been recognised by the VCA for many years, and the addition of plastic healthcare products to the Minister’s priority list builds on the VCA’s existing PVC Recycling in Hospitals (PRIH) scheme which has been successfully running since 2009.
Collaboratively managed alongside program partners Baxter Healthcare and Welvic Australia, the PRIH program helps participating hospitals, medical centres and veterinary practices across Australia to recycle their used PVC medical products including IV fluid bags, tubing and masks, which are collected for re-use in a range of second-life, high-quality PVC products including hosing, mats and gumboots. Despite some logistical interruptions over the course of the pandemic the scheme has continued to expand over recent years to now include over 300 participating hospitals, with an amount of recycled PVC equivalent to over 10 million IV fluid bags collected nation-wide across 2020-21 as part of the program.
With participation numbers constantly growing and recent expansion into more rural areas, recovery rates of PVC in the program are expected to trend upwards as the scheme continues to act as a flagship program with the VCA sharing learnings to assist the adoption of similar PVC medical recycling schemes in Europe, the UK, South Africa, Canada and Thailand.
The VCA has also long-recognised the importance of a collaborative, whole-of-lifecycle approach to product stewardship, and the VCA’s voluntary PVC Stewardship Program (PSP) continues to drive industry standards with over 50 Program Signatories reporting annually on their progress in the safe and beneficial production, use and re-use of PVC products.
The VCA looks forward to supporting the Government’s focus on driving stewardship initiatives and solutions for all PVC items on the Minister’s priority list, to continue to help drive the transition towards national solutions and further innovation in the stewardship of PVC products.