New COVID-19 Challenge: Minimizing PPE Waste

Managers seek to reduce the quantity of isolation gowns, gloves and masks discarded after use

January 15, 2021

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in March 2020, finding enough personal protective equipment (PPE) quickly became a top priority for facility managers in hospitals and other healthcare organizations looking to protect front-line and support staff from the coronavirus. Ten months later, and locating sufficient masks, gowns and gloves remains a top priority for managers. But what happens to all those products after use? 

Hospitals generate around 30 pounds of waste per patient per day, which amounts to about 14,000 tons of waste daily, one-quarter of which is plastic packaging and products, says the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council. The World Health Organization estimates that about 85 percent of hospital waste is noninfectious, making the bulk of it easier to dispose and potentially recycle.

With COVID-19 case numbers rising and vaccines rolling out, managing supplies and reducing waste continues as a huge issue this year. Isolation gowns, gloves, masks, needles, syringes and vials discarded after use: some waste is inevitable, but supply chain leaders are finding ways to reduce the quantity, according to Supply Chain Dive. They are reusing and recycling when possible and adjusting procurement and packaging to help the environment and even the bottom line.

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Topic Area: Sustainable Operations


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