90% of Medical Device Waste Consists of Single-Use Devices - How to improve sustainability
Source: ZRG Medical
Single-Use Devices Account for 90% of Medical Device Waste - How Reusable Innovations Can Improve Environmental Sustainability
Currently, the U.S. healthcare system accounts for 10% of the country’s carbon emissions and 9% of harmful non-greenhouse air pollutants. 90% of medical device waste consists of disposable, single-use products or components.
Before COVID, the U.S. medical community started to explore reusable device options as a means to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. However, the pandemic ultimately paused initiatives as the healthcare industry prioritized urgent, COVID-related initiatives.
Now in the aftermath of the pandemic, The U.S. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is taking direct action to reduce the industry’s overreliance on single-use medical devices. In the 2022 primer published by the HHS, the detrimental effects of this reliance are clearly explained.
According to the HHS, “Reliance on single-use disposable medical supplies and devices not only leaves health systems vulnerable to supply chain disruptions, as seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are frequently cited as containing higher life cycle emissions per use compared with equivalent application of reusable alternatives.”
To ultimately increase the integration rates of reusable medical devices into hospital systems, healthcare organizations must generate demand amongst manufacturers. Leveraging purchasing power, healthcare entities can influence manufacturers to develop and distribute more reusable systems. This is a key principle of the circular economy, as expressed by the HHS. ’
Beyond Setting Demand for Reusable Systems - Additional Steps to Create a More Sustainable U.S. Healthcare System
In his article “Taking the Long View: Harnessing Product Lifecycle Drives Sustainability in Medical Devices,” MedTech reporter George I’ons highlights additional areas of consideration to drive reusable device adoption, including “sustainability by design.”Rather than introducing entirely new technologies across the board, developers should consider what immediate changes can be made to pre-existing products on the market.
For example, reviewing products and ensuring that they have the minimal amount of components necessary can reduce emissions from production and transport, in addition to cutting down on waste.
In the future, single-use components will still be necessary for areas in which hygiene concerns exist, such as invasive procedures. The goal is not to completely eliminate one-time materials but rather to evaluate what changes can be made in the short term to contribute to a more sustainable environment.
Companies like Orange Biomed are dedicated to creating a more sustainable healthcare industry by taking these steps. We are currently testing the world’s first, reusable, portable POC A1c device. Our team hopes this innovation will inspire other developers to introduce more eco-friendly systems.