Reusable textiles key to go green in the operating theatre

10 December 2018


Surgical drapes and tapes are textile products used in operating theatres worldwide. They are taped to patients and equipment during surgical procedures to protect workers and patients from the transfer of microorganisms, body fluids, and particulate matter. Each year, millions of them are used in the UK alone, so it’s easy to see why ensuring these products are as sustainable as possible should be a priority for industry and customers.

To this end, the Chainge Consortium, a group of international leaders in surgical textiles and laundry chemicals, commissioned an independent life-cycle analysis of drape and tape systems, both reusable and disposable.

The study, by life-cycle analysts Environmental Clarity found that reusable surgical drapes and tapes are significantly superior to their disposable counterparts in terms of environmental impact and sustainability.

Reusables were found to perform significantly better than disposables in terms of resource efficiency in 10 out of 11 impact categories (the odd one out being ozone layer depletion). In particular, reusable drape and tape systems:

  • Used 38% overall less energy than disposables
  • Produced 80% less solid waste than disposables
  • Provided 62% water savings compared to disposables.

In addition, their carbon footprint was 38% lower than disposable systems, had 98% less impact on human toxicity and 38% less on overall global warming across the whole life-cycle.

Philip Wright, CEO of the Textile Services Association, said: “The textile services industry typifies an excellent example of a circular economy and this study clearly shows that reusable textiles are a far better environmental option.

“Environmental impact is but one of the areas where our members can contribute to the healthcare sector. The high standards in commercial laundries provide a great service protecting patients from the spread of hospital infections through professional cleaning and maintenance of gowns, scrubs and nurses’ uniforms.”

The report can be found here

Environmental Clarity compared three environmental indicators (energy consumption, water consumption, and solid waste generation) and 11 environmental impacts (abiotic depletion of minerals, abiotic depletion of fossil fuels, global warming, ozone layer depletion, human, fresh water terrestrial and marine aquatic ecotoxicity, photochemical oxidation, acidification and eutrophication) across the life-span of these products, from manufacturing to end-of life, including transport, wash and sterilisation.


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