Medical plastics recycling initiative ramps up at U-M Health

April 28, 2023  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,

About a 3-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • U-M Health is implementing a project called the medical plastics recycling initiative with the goal of reducing waste and taking a step toward the organization’s carbon neutrality goals.
  • After a successful pilot in Mott and VonVoigtlander, the initiative is rolling out into other operating rooms, targeting “blue wrap” and other non-contaminated medical plastics to increase the recycle rate and divert plastics from landfills 
  • DuPont has been a key ally in this project, helping to create environmentally safe solutions for the organization.

A project over a decade in the making is beginning to be implemented, furthering University of Michigan Health’s effort to reduce carbon emissions and making a substantial step forward in achieving the organization’s carbon neutrality goals.

Globally, health care plastics packaging was 14.5 billion pounds in 2020 with projections up to nearly 19 billion pounds by 2025. Around 25% of all waste generated at hospitals is plastic. Moreover, 35% of all waste generated at hospitals occurs in the operating room setting, ending at a landfill due to lack of viable recycling options. To address this sizable issue, the medical plastics recycling initiative was created.

Its roots trace back to 2011, but in the past two years, Michigan Medicine has advanced recycling potentials through a collaboration with DuPont. These efforts are made possible through U-M Health’s Environmental Sustainability & Carbon Neutrality program.

In October 2021, a six-month pilot with DuPont began at C.S. Mott Children’s and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospitals. Over 2.5 tons of plastic material was collected and recycled. The success of the pilot was attributed to meeting the program’s goals of collecting “blue wrap” used to package surgical items, and other non-contaminated medical plastics to increase the recycle rate and divert plastics from landfills.

“This project is one of many important initiatives that we have underway at U-M Health,” said Tony Denton, senior vice president and chief environmental, social and governance officer at Michigan Medicine. “We have been working incredibly hard to identify how operating room products are used and disposed of in an environmentally sustainable way. I am delighted to have a partner like DuPont who is on the cutting edge and engaged in innovative practices which will allow us to reduce waste, recycle and repurpose materials for the benefit of our planet.”

Fast forward to this spring and summer, and U-M Health is prepared to roll out its first large-scale medical plastics recycling initiative within the operating room suite of Mott and Von Voigtlander Hospitals. Continued rollout of the program will take place at the Adult Hospitals. Future phases will aim for expansion of the recycling initiative across our ambulatory surgical centers and medical procedure locations.

“We are excited to see what the results will be from this project,” Denton added. “We know it’s going to have a large impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and we look forward to sharing the environmental impact results.”

One of the key reasons the program has been successful is the alliance with DuPont. The company has a demonstrated commitment to reduce the carbon footprint and create environmentally safe solutions with other industries that make a difference for individuals and communities.

The Wrap employee podcast also focused on sustainability this week. Check it out via YouTube below to learn more about the steps the organization is taking — and steps you can take — to protect the environment.

Watch for future Headlines articles and other communications about the Environmental Sustainability & Carbon Neutrality program initiatives and progress. In the meantime, visit the Environmental Stewardship website. If you have suggestions or ideas on how climate change can be addressed more effectively at Michigan Medicine, please email