Why Reusable Textiles?
Reusable Healthcare Textiles: An Affordable, Reliable, Safe, and Sustainable Solution
Successful conversions from disposable to reusable (washable) textiles at healthcare systems and other enterprises across the U.S. affirm the dramatic environmental benefits that ARTA’s comparative life cycle assessments (LCAs) have demonstrated for more than a decade.
But environmental sustainability is just one reason why reusable textiles are the right choice.
Customers also find sizable cost-per-use savings, more reliable supply chains and protection for caregivers and patients comparable to disposable products.
Full conversions from disposable to reusable products at four UCLA Health system hospitals, Carillion Clinic hospitals and other healthcare systems and organizations yielded 50% cost-per-use savings on isolaton gowns, 10-15% on surgical gowns and 58% on cleanroom coveralls.
The results of comparing the cost of products that can be washed many times with those used once and discarded are so striking that Karl Fillip, CEO Emeritus of Atlanta-based NOVO Health Services, said that NOVO has made documenting the cost savings for clients a standard business practice.
2020 wasn’t the first time the demand for disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) increased sharply, but the year tested the limits of the healthcare industry and its suppliers in an unprecedented fashion. The supply crisis was particularly damaging for the U.S., heavily reliant on international suppliers for PPE.
Reusable textile suppliers stepped up to the challenge, quickly finding sources to fill providers’ needs, managing the associated logistical and operational issues, and playing a critical role to support an industry in crisis.
Hospitals using reusable products say they found themselves much better prepared than those solely dependent on single use PPE, averting supply chain failures for those products, wild fluctuations in prices, and quality control breakdowns that led to product recalls.
Some non-woven textile suppliers present their products as the last line of defense against hospital-acquired infections. But the claim doesn’t hold water. The nation’s top public health protection agency, regulatory authorities, healthare industry standards organizations and the evidence provided by some of the nation’s top subject matter experts don’t support that claim.
Meanwhile, various published, peer-reviewed studies have shown that current industrial laundry processes are effective in interrupting potential patient-to-patient transmission of infectious diseases. The research findings that washable healthcare textiles are as safe as disposables are borne out by hospitals that have used reusable products for decades.
By Dory Trinka. Trinka is a freelance writer and editor and provides content management services to businesses and nonprofits. email@example.com
The healthcare industry is among the most carbon-intensive service sectors in the industrialized world, responsible for nearly 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 9% to 10% of domestic greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. healthcare system ranks first among healthcare systems globally. And the problem has been getting worse. U.S. healthcare greenhouse gas emissions, which arise directly from healthcare facilities and indirectly from the supply chains of goods and services, rose 6% from 2010 to 2018, and is now the highest among industrialized nations.
Broader adoption of reusable textiles by the industry could do much to resolve that problem. ARTA life cycle assessment research proves that reusables reduce waste by 84% to 97%, that they consume significantly less water and energy, and have much less impact on global warming than disposables. Medical waste is a particularly important issue because it results in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that stay in the earth’s atmosphere for tens to hundreds of years, warming the climate and impacting present and future generations. The problem got worse due to COVID-19. Much worse.
The cost of single use products by the healthcare industry is simply too high a price to pay – in more ways than one. The cost per use of some personal protective equipment (PPE) like isolation gowns is double that of gowns that can be washed 70 or more times, according to the hospitals that use them.
And the COVID-19 pandemic revealed how quickly domestic inventories of the most common types of disposable PPE are depleted when demand by hospitals and a frightened public converge.
But the more lasting cost of disposables is the environmental damage and health risk they contribute to, and exacerbate, world wide. Lowering that risk could save many lives.