Baxter International Inc. has announced in a Dec. 14, 2023 press release that they were successfully able to recycle used IV bag waste into material for other products, lending it a useful and sustainable second life. In conjunction with Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, the program is the first of its kind to launch in the U.S.
More than six tons of IV bag waste made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) was “successfully diverted from landfill to be recycled for a useful second life.” Baxter is a manufacturer and supplier of the IV bags, which are “ubiquitous in hospital care—particularly single-use plastic containers that provide patients clinically essential solutions including fluids, nutrition and medicines.” The normal process for post-use collection for IV bags involves “draining of residual fluid and disposing as waste that ultimately ends up in a landfill,” underlining the need for a more sustainable means of disposal. As part of this pilot program, collected IV bags are “transported and inspected to ultimately be recycled into products such as industrial floor mats and protective edging for docks and landscaping.” PVC, the plastic material the IV bags in the program were made of, is “one of the most widely used plastic materials in medical products."
Jeff Good, Northwestern Medicine’s first sustainability executive and vice president of operations, stated that “more than 170,000 IV bags” have been recycled as a direct result of the pilot program’s implementation. Several inpatient units within Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago took part in the pilot program in an attempt to “reduce [their] carbon footprint and eliminate unnecessary waste.” The pilot phase of the program has now concluded, and Baxter is “now actively seeking to engage additional health system participants in the Chicago area to further validate the process” in order to “support long-term, large-scale implementation with potential roll out to other health systems across the country.”
Baxter’s website has the full press release.