Three common contaminants in mixed container recycling: specimen containers, urinals, and no-needle syringes
Written by Glen Garrick, Sustainability Manager, Facilities

Not all plastic items belong in the recycling bin. Put urinals, specimen containers and syringes (with or without needles) into the appropriate container or garbage bin.

Just because it’s a hard plastic does not mean it goes in the recycling bin.

The following plastic items can’t be recycled. Put them in the the appropriate container, or general garbage bin, even if empty, clean, or used for non-bodily specimens:

  • urinals
  • specimen containers
  • syringes (note: syringes with needles must go into a sharps container) 

Why is this so important?

Correctly sorting health care waste allows us to:

  • keep staff safe
  • prevent recyclable materials from being contaminated with non-recyclable waste
  • manage waste disposal costs
  • comply with waste regulations

Why are some hard plastic items not recyclable?

Some hard plastic items can’t be recycled because of their intended use in a health care setting. Health care generates biomedical waste, which poses a higher risk to recycling and health care staff.

What if the items are clean, empty, or unused?

If a hard plastic item is intended for the collection or storage of bodily waste, it must be perceived as a potential health risk even if it has been emptied or cleaned, or not used. It cannot be recycled. Containers intended for bodily fluids, like urinals, are sometimes used for other (non-body) purposes.

However, recycling staff—who sort the containers by hand—won’t know how the container was used. Therefore, all such containers must be treated as if used for their intended purpose. They must be disposed of in garbage bins.

Visit GreenCare Community’s Recycling Questions page for more information on which items can be recycled.

Questions? Contact Sustainability Consultant

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