Circularity in the operating theatre
22 October 2020
Disposable becomes sustainable after all
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we came across a shortage of mouth masks in healthcare. In response, Renewi joined forces with Van Straten Medical - GreenCycl, a company involved in reducing hospitals’ wastes. The cooperation led to the successful collection, sterilisation and recycling of mouth masks for Dutch hospitals.
Once the oral masks crisis was over, a new focus has arisen: the recycling of medical instruments. In an era with a growing awareness of waste and climate, making hospitals more sustainable is vital. To support the circular economy, producers of medical equipment, universities, Van Straten Medical- GreenCycl and Renewi, have started to look into how to recycle more wastes from operating theatres and sterilisation departments.
The current lifecycle of surgical instruments is unsustainable. Despite being manufactured from high-quality and sustainable raw materials, many disposable instruments, once used, are sent to industrial incinerators as high-risk medical waste (RMA).
This issue is leading to a scarcity of high-quality end-of-life materials, as an average of 40.000 disposable instruments are thrown away every year in Dutch hospitals*. Although this number is not encouraging, a circular approach towards waste from operating theatres is feasible.
* This item does not include excess metal waste, including rejected reusable instruments.
Pilot project in the Netherlands
A pilot project in the Netherlands within three hospitals has shown that it is possible to make 85% of the surgical instruments as good as new. To achieve so, three waste streams from operating theatres will be collected separately at the source: stainless steel, polypropylene packaging and other packaging plastics, which will be further distinguished between contaminated and non-contaminated wastes.
Sustainable operation for the hospitals and the climate
By collecting surgical used instruments from hospitals, decontaminating them with heating and disinfectant, and melting them into new raw materials, we can manufacture new products and close the circle. This sustainable procedure ensures to stop exploiting high-quality, expensive and increasingly scarce raw materials. The advantage of this solution is also to provide hospitals with huge cost savings.
The right logistics, infrastructure and vision: also in Belgium
As a waste-to-product company, Renewi first perfectly into this sustainable picture. In addition to our knowledge of sustainable waste solutions, we also offer our partners appropriate infrastructures, logistics and contacts at care institutions.
Waste from operating theatres can, and must, disappear as politicians and media alike are pointing out at the scarcity of these materials. And many hospitals wish to become more sustainable.
At the end of this pilot project, Renewi, as operational manager, plans to roll it out in Belgium as well.