Photo: Michael Harder, Aarhus University Hospital.

Sterile wrapping, packaging, bottles, …a hospital generates huge amounts of plastic waste. Aarhus Univesity Hospital works to find new way of managing plastic packaging waste.

Many different types of plastic packaging are used daily at a hospital. The packaging is made of many different types of plastic and unfortunately only a small part is recyclable. This needs to change. 

We all have a responsibility
Circular economy is in focus these years. The media attention to the huge amounts of plastic floating in the oceans is high and climate changes is a hot issue. Since 2016, Aarhus University Hospital has worked with mapping the large amount of plastic shipped off together with other waste products every day. The project is part of Central Denmark Region’s strategy on sustainable adaptability. The next step is to collaborate closely with producers and suppliers of products to Aarhus University Hospital and to investigate the possibilities for recycling of the plastic packaging waste. The suppliers are already keen supporters and would like to contribute to make a difference.

”Sterile products must be wrapped in three layers but maybe the outer layer could be produced in recyclable materials or maybe the thickness of the plastic could be reduced?”, Susanne Backer, Project Leader of Circular Economy, asks. She continues: ”Could packaging be designed to satisfy the demands for both patient safety AND recycling? In the future, we need to focus on the materials we use and the amounts we use.”

What can be done
Through the work with mapping the plastic use at Aarhus University Hospital, Susanne Backer has arrived at four important recommendations. These recommendations are preliminary, she underlines, as the work has just started.

Preliminary recommendations:

  1. Mark all plastic products that are recyclable
  2. Reduce the number of polymers
  3. Prioritise use of recyclable polymers
  4. Think about recycling of resources in the design of packaging


The purpose of the project is to increase recycling and circular economy in the plastic packaging waste at Aarhus University Hospital. Work is in progress on developing and testing a value chain model concerning environmental and commercial values resulting from the work with plastic packaging waste. This will be done in close collaboration with the industry and relevant companies.

”The vision is to create the optimal framework for circular economy at society level by decoding and making a model for creating value for all stakeholders along a value chain. Aarhus University Hospital resembles a miniature society which gives us a unique possibility to follow the products through entire value chains and in this way develop and test new ways of thinking and acting,”, says Head of the Committee on Sustainable Adaptability in Central Denmark Region, Henrik Qvist.

Workshop in April
On the 24 and 25 April 2017, Aarhus University Hospital in collaboration with Healthcare Plastic Recycling Council hosts an international workshop with focus on knowledge-sharing concerning recycling of plastic packaging in the healthcare sector. Major foreign suppliers such as

Johnson & Johnson, Baxter and Becter Dickinson, all co-founders of the Healthcare Plastic Recycling Council. Their vision is to make all hospital waste recyclable.



  • The Aarhus University Hospital project is called: Development and test of a model for value chain collaboration on waste as a resource.
  • Total budget: DKK 7,750, 000 in a co-financing between Central Denmark Region (DKK 6,750,000) and Aarhus University Hospital (DKK 1,000,000).


Waste at Aarhus University Hospital:


  • Estimated 3300 tons annually
  • 20% is recyclable
  • 79% waste is used for energy
  • 1% waste disposal site


  • Estimated 33l00 tons annually
  • 70% is recyclable
  • 29% waste is used for energy
  • 1% waste disposal site


Model for a sustainable region

The goal of Central Denmark Region towards 2025 is to recycle 70% of all solid waste produced in the region. To meet this goal, new knowledge on the lifecycle of material is necessary.


Further information:

Susanne Backer, Project Leader of Circular Economy, Technical Department, Aarhus University Hospital, + 45 40328360 / e-mail: suback@rm.dk

Henrik Qvist, Head of Committee on Sustainable Adaptability, Central Denmark Region,
+45 26840211 / e-mail: hq@rr.rm.dk

Fact on Central Denmark Region concerning circular economy, please contact:

Hanne Juel, Strategic Developer, +45 29630235 / e- mail: hanne.juel@ru.rm.dk