A healthy outcome for hospital waste. Melbourne's plastic recycling in full swing.

05 December 2017

Nurse hanging a saline drip

The investment of less than $1-millon has taken more than 1,000 tonnes of waste PVC out of landfills and there are hopes that figure will be quadrupled in just a few years.

Deer Park company, Welvic Australia, is one of a growing number of Victorian businesses which recycle common plastics.

Waste PVC from domestic and industrial sources, including surgical saline bags and tubing from Richmond’s Epworth Hospital are used to make pellets which can be turned into new products such as hoses for industrial and irrigation uses and new flooring/matting products.

Welvic’s new $720,000 Project REVIVE recycling plant was part-funded by $153,000 from Sustainability Victoria and $266,962 from the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, a co-regulatory not-for-profit organisation that works with government and industry to reduce the harmful effect of packaging on the environment.

Welvic produces about 12,000 tonnes of pellets made from virgin PVC each year. With the new recycling line, that has been increased by 1,000 tonnes and there’s potential to make another 4,000 tonnes.

Operations Manager Michael Starcevic said reprocessing reduced production costs and generated six new jobs.

“Smart businesses will become more directly involved in recycling programs utilising resources that have been already expended. Producing PVC with recycled materials uses up to 80 per cent less energy and resources, and requires far fewer new raw materials”.

“The challenge is to match the quality of new, but this can be achieved by modern reprocessing technology and developing products that can be readily recycled when they reach end of life”.

The involvement of the Epworth - a finalist in this year’s Premier’s Sustainability Awards - was pushed by theatre nurse, Rebecca Pascoe (left) whose efforts have diverted around 12 tonnes of waste from landfill.

The Epworth is among120 hospitals which are part of the PVC Recycling in Hospitals Program.

“I could see there was a massive gap and huge potential for us to recycle more. We just needed the resources and staff education to get started,” Ms Pascoe said.

“Keeping collection bins free of contaminants is our biggest challenge, so training is critical to the program’s success.”

Welvic has been a key partner in the PVC Recycling in Hospitals Program established by the Vinyl Council of Australia, and its investment has helped lift the program to a higher level.

In 2015/16 149,000 tonnes amount of plastics were recovered in Victoria. Victoria is Australia’s leading plastic recycling state, and reprocesses 45 per cent of the country’s recovered plastics.

Sustainability Victoria’s Director of Resource Recovery, Jonathan Leake, said PVC was an under-utilised resource.

“The good thing about PVC is that once it’s recovered it can be recycled over-and-over and made into useful products.

“Welvic has seen that recycling PVC rather than relying on virgin material has commercial, social and environmental benefits,” Mr Leake said.

“By finding ways to return plastics back into valuable products we can help create end-markets for this material and support the growth of Victoria’s recycling and manufacturing industries.”