Hospital waste

More targeted waste collection, sorting and recycling

Keeping a hospital running generates a lot of waste. Today, however, too many valuable products are destroyed by incineration. This is mainly due to the lack of intelligent return logistics, both in terms of collection, sorting and transfer to processors for reuse and recycling.

With this project, we want to investigate and demonstrate that reverse logistic processes can be implemented to collect, sort and recycle materials considered as waste in a more targeted way.

Specifically, we have divided the project into four subprojects and focused on four waste streams: the selective collection of non-contaminated sterilisation towels, the collection and drying of coffee grounds, the selective collection of medical glass that can be taken out of the RMA flow, and the recycling of PET cleaning towels.

At the same time, we also want to use the social economy in this project. In this way, we can demonstrate that the employment of vulnerable groups is perfectly possible in the transition to a circular economy, and even more so: their involvement and enthusiasm are a crucial link in the implementation of these reverse logistics processes.

EnAdviS bvba

Partners EnAdviS bvba, UZ Leuven, Oostrem vzw, VIL vzw



  1. In 2020, we were able to selectively collect 20 tonnes of sterilisation towels for high-quality recycling. Our target for 2021 was even adjusted to 50 tonnes. This reverse logistics process has been successfully worked out and can form a basis for other residual flows.
  2. The collection of coffee grounds is feasible. Drying in the open air, which is important for its shelf life, takes place in day care centres. The grit can then be used for the production of biochar, the cultivation of fungi or the pressing of oil for soap.
  3. The selective collection of certain fractions of medical glass was less successful. Although this glass is recyclable, we cannot currently process the glass bottles due to the adhesive nature of the labels. We are still investigating alternative routes.
  4. The collection of single-use PET cloths from cleanrooms, and then having them washed, dried and recycled, was also successful. The pure PET will be recycled at Concordia Textiles in the future, with a view to new textile applications.


  1. We encountered many barriers, but staying on the ball and alert to all possible opportunities led to the obtained results. Working and adjusting on the basis of progressive insight is an important factor for success.
  2. We succeeded in implementing reverse logistics processes and channelling small, scattered residual flows into quantities that make recycling possible. Now it is important to apply this process to other residual flows and further optimise our transports.
  3. The biggest barrier remains that everyone wants to commit to recycling and reuse, but it should not cost much. Higher taxes on incineration and simplifying the administrative paperwork could be possible solutions.
  4. Although we have not yet succeeded in recycling the glass, this sub-process has provided insight into previously hidden difficulties. With this knowledge, we can now work further on possible solutions or alternative directions.
4 subprojects
27 participating hospitals
85 tons of sterilising towels
250 providing people with disabilities with a meaningful day's work


Our sub-project on the homogenisation of non-contaminated sterilisation towels will certainly continue, thanks to the large number of active associations. The sales potential of the recycled material is also considerable. Moreover, this successful project invites us to think about how we can selectively collect other high-quality streams. For example, a limited number of hospitals have already started the selective collection of trays.

Due to the available sales markets and the easy upscaling, the project for the collection of coffee crates will also be continued.

With regard to the collection of medical glass, we want to continue searching for a possible alternative on the basis of the knowledge we have gained.

Finally, the sub-project on PET cleaning cloths will also continue.