DISINFACTS | Special edition 2023

PRACTICE incineration. After incineration, the metals can be recovered and returned to the circular economy. The Peha®-instrument from HARTMANN are already largely made from such recycled metals. Moreover, they can be recycled again after use. However, all other types of materials, such as plastics, cannot be recovered for recycling after incineration. The use of biodegradable materials is often encouraged here, although the carbon footprint of many sustainable and biodegradable materials is not necessarily favourable. Due to the lower energy release during their incineration compared to conventional materials, the overall carbon footprint may be higher. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully evaluate the environmental impact throughout the entire life cycle of these materials before assuming their superiority. Furthermore, the current regulations and guidelines surrounding healthcare products often hinder the use of more sustainable materials for single-use items and the strict safety and hygiene standards may limit the adoption of innovative, eco-friendly alternatives. Greener disposables enable the balancing act between safety and sustainability However, advancements in technology and regulatory frameworks can enable the development of sustainable single-use products that meet both safety requirements and environmental considerations, so that the healthcare industry can minimise waste and reduce its carbon footprint. This would allow hospitals to maintain the advantages of single-use products while mitigating their environmental impact. In the sense of a circular economy, it must be evaluated in the future how raw materials can be recovered from the materials. In certain areas of healthcare, such as the zone-specific clothing in operation rooms, single-use products dominate. Approximately 80% of the clothing currently used is disposable due to the critical nature of maintaining sterility and cleanliness [2]. HARTMANN is working towards sustainability by redesigning products to provide the same performance and safety as current products, but with a lower carbon footprint. These initiatives demonstrate that it is possible to combine patient safety with sustainable practices. Disposable products account for only a portion of waste management in the hospital It is crucial to note that discussions about single-use and reusable products should take into account the bigger picture. Depending on the country and size of the hospital, single-use products account for about 20% of the waste generated [3] but only for 3% of the total carbon emissions of a hospital [4]. Other waste sources, such as packaging materials and non-healthcare-related waste, often have a higher impact on overall waste management. While addressing single-use products is important, it should be part of a comprehensive waste reduction strategy that targets all areas contributing to waste generation. Sustainability is of utmost importance, however, patient and user safety must always remain the top priority in the healthcare sector. Waste is a valuable material that must be separated correctly and reprocessed sensibly, minimising its environmental impact without compromising safety. 23 References 1. Keil et al. (2023) Eur J Public Health. 33(1):56-63. 2. American Laundry News, https://americanlaundrynews.com/articles/importance-lcas-now-future-part-1 (Zugriff am 20.06.2023). 3. Ivanović et al. (2022) Resour Conserv Recycl. 185(1):106425. 4. Wagner et al. (2022) Zielbild: Klimaneutrales Krankenhaus (Wuppertal Report Nr. 24). Wuppertal Institut, doi : 10.48506/opus-8075