Needle recycling program diverts 40,000 pounds of waste

BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), a global medical technology company, and Casella Waste Systems, Inc., a solid waste, recycling, and resource management services company, have diverted close to 40,000 pounds of medical waste.

The two initiated a recycling pilot to manage discarded syringes and needles.  

Health care facilities are a major consumer of syringes, which have been particularly difficult to recycle due to the various components and steps involved in the process, including safe handling of medical waste and treating and sterilizing materials before they can be re-introduced for recycling. This recycling pilot helps address a historic challenge within the health care industry – which generates more than three billion pounds of plastic waste in the U.S. alone. 

The circular economy pilot, which took place in the first half of 2023, was the first large-scale effort to assess the feasibility of recycling medical waste found in red sharps containers. These containers included a broad range of medical equipment and materials, primarily syringes and needles.

The medical waste was collected across a variety of health care facilities and all of the plastics were diverted from disposal and recycled. The pilot also assessed technical feasibility of two types of technology – mechanical and advanced recycling – both showing favourable results in their ability to successfully recycle used medical devices for use in other products.

“Needles and syringes help enable a wide range of critical medical treatments and care, but they require plastic for production — which generates waste and is one of the most relevant environmental issues facing the health care industry today,” said Chee Lum, vice president and general manager of injection systems for BD.

“At BD, we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our portfolio, and the results of this study show that by working together with industry partners, we can drive sustainable solutions that have a positive impact on the health of our planet and communities.”

The next stage of the pilot program will expand regionally to additional hospitals and non-acute care facilities. The teams will also increase focus to cover other types of medical materials for recycling, as well as reclaiming the used devices and returning them to the manufacturing process.

“This pilot showcases the strength of collaborative partnerships when it comes to sustainable material management practices,” said Casella Chairman and CEO, John Casella.

“We are excited to find an opportunity to provide our expertise and services to a forward-thinking customer like BD to help enable new streams of sustainability and resource management. We’re pleased with the outcome of this first phase and look forward to continuing to expand on these results and provide solutions to one of health care’s most pressing waste issues.”

Over the last decade, BD and Casella have partnered to recover, process and recycle waste at BD sites across the U.S. BD is addressing the impact of its devices from cradle to grave ultimately progressing toward its 2030+ environmental, social and governance goals.