Healthcare facilities across Australia are focusing on reducing the environmental impact of their waste streams. By disposing of sharps waste in ‘reusable’ containers instead of ‘disposable’ containers, the medical sector can make a huge difference to sustainability rates.
What’s the difference?
Disposable sharps containers are destroyed along with their contents. Because of this, they are the least environmentally friendly method of handling sharps waste. Disposable containers are required to be packed in single use cardboard boxes in order to be distributed. This cardboard requires disposal at the healthcare site, adding to the waste generated.
The disposal process uses valuable energy resources when containers are treated, commonly through incineration or autoclaving. For every disposable container that is used, another new container must be manufactured as a replacement. This process requires a completely new allocation of materials and additional energy resources. The containers also add to the volume of residual material that ends up in landfill.
While recycling has received a lot of positive attention in recent years, the process is not as simple for medical waste.
Generally, recycled plastic comes from ‘safe’ sources such as soft drink bottles. In order to avoid issues of potential contamination and to maintain product strength and integrity, only 10% of recycled material is used when producing new plastic items.
If used sharps containers were to be used as a source of recyclable plastic, a safe method of opening and handling the contents would be required. In addition, containers would need to be cleaned to a standard that recyclers would accept. Such a process would involve a significant amount of energy and materials, and would still require a large amount of new plastic to make new containers.
When a reusable container is filled, only the waste inside it is disposed and destroyed, lessening the environmental impact of discarded plastic and cardboard. The used container is hygienically washed and returned, ready for the next use.
Benefits of reusable containers
A study conducted in an 850-bed acute care facility in 2012 examined greenhouse gas emission (GHG) comparisons between disposable sharps containers and Daniels Sharpsmart reusable containers. The results were unprecedented, revealing an 84% reduction of carbon emissions – the equivalent of 84,368 kg’s per annum.
Each year, for every 100 occupied beds, the Daniels Sharpsmart reusable sharps container:
• Reduces plastic waste by 2,100 kg
• Reduces cardboard waste by 150 kg
• Eliminates the manufacturing and landfilling of 2,500 disposable containers.
The Clinismart container is a specifically designed vessel to compliantly contain clinical waste, without the use of a liner bag. This is brought about by the use of the quality seal in the lid which provides a water tight seal when the lid is closed. The bagless system reduces the volume of plastic waste going to landfill.
Are you at risk from sharps injuries? Find out in this article.
Contact Cleanaway and Daniels Health for more information on how our reusable products help make a sustainable future possible for the healthcare sector.