Blue Wrap Recycling

When Shawnee Mission Medical Center decided to create a green team in 2007, surgical nurse Jen Ogden was excited. Jen was distraught by the amount of blue wrap – a material used to cover sterilized surgical instruments – that was thrown away each day at the hospital and was determined to find a solution for recycling it.

Jen took a sample of the blue wrap, made of polypropylene, #5 plastic, to a green team meeting to show the hospital’s waste contractor who promised to check into its recyclability. Never hearing back, Jen put it on the back burner and helped pursue other green team efforts. Months later, Jen discovered a co-worker, Diana McCully, shared the same concern for the issue of recycling blue wrap, and they set out to find a solution together.


Because blue wrap is a high-volume, low-weight material, they knew shipping it long distances would negate any benefits of recycling. So Jen and Diana, through the help of Mid-America Regional Council, identified St. Joseph Plastics located in St. Joseph, Missouri, as a potential local recycler. After identifying somewhere for the plastic to go, Jen and Diana took the idea back to several departments within SMMC for support and decided to move forward with a 12-day trial recycling program in July 2008 to see what issues might need to be resolved before implementing a permanent program. During the trial, staff collected 300 lbs. of blue wrap for recycling and found that staff was very supportive and willing to participate in the collection.

They hit a roadblock; however, when the plastics company asked them to bale the blue wrap material to make it more cost effective for transport. Knowing that the hospital wouldn’t be able to purchase a baler, Jen checked into whether or not the hospital’s current baler for cardboard recycling could be used in a mixed-materials format. Finding out that Smurfit-Stone would accept the blue wrap in mixed-recycling, the program was implemented on a permanent basis on September 2, 2008. Smurfit-Stone collects and sorts the blue wrap at its facility before passing it on to St. Joseph Plastics, who then melts it down into small pellets they sell to domestic companies who make flower pots, siding or other products made from #5 plastic.

Update: SMMC now sends their blue wrap, as well as irrigation bottles, to Midwest Shredding and Recycling. Midwest collects and stores their materials until they have a 2 ton bale, which is then shipped overseas for recycling.