PPE Circular Economy

A linear economy holds no sustainable value for health care. Health care’s participation in a circular economy (CE), however, would provide a major opportunity to yield direct benefits to the sustainability and efficiency of the delivery of health care services and indirect benefits from reducing harmful environmental impacts of hospital-generated waste (WHO, 2018). [6]

PPE Circular Economy
Waste Extracting raw materials Parts supply Manufacturing Distribution User Incineration and landfill Dematerialize/optimize usage Service/upgrades Refurbish Recycling Parts recovery Take Make

Waste

This is the last component of the linear economy, and indicates the end of the product lifecycle. At this point, products are discarded where they stagnate in landfills and damage the surrounding natural environment.

Extracting raw materials

Raw material extraction is a very initial stage in the circular economy when raw materials enter the system from outside. However, the goal of the circular economy is to phase out this step such that the materials in the system are continually circulated without the need for new raw materials from outside the circular economy.

Parts supply

The extracted raw materials are processed to make different parts that go into products. This is an intermediary step that has input from the raw material extraction step as well as the recycling step.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing is a key component of the circular economy since the PPE and mSUP products that are produced need to be built in such a way that they can be reused, refurbished, reprocessed and/or recycled further down in the system.

Distribution

The circular economy encourages the development of a resilient and strategic supply chain, that can aid in manufacturing durable and innovative  PPE and mSUP products.

User

Users' consumption of PPE and mSUPs drives production and distribution. Therefore, a reduction or optimisation in consumption of new products is of paramount importance to drive the re-usage of PPE and mSUPs.

Incineration and landfill

The incineration and landfill step is the absolute last resort component of the circular economy, and is carried out only with particular materials and components that cannot remain in the system.

Dematerialize/optimize usage

Optimizing usage of PPE and mSUPs can play a key role in prolonging the product lifecycle. While the users do play a key role in ensuring this happens, the products themselves must be reusable in the first place. Listed below are some aspects to consider:

- Designing and manufacturing products that can be reused more than one time through cleaning and sterilization techniques

- Substituting cleaning agents which can be generated onsite (aqueous ozone), decreasing the need to continually buy new products

- Ultra-violate disinfection versus toxic chemical usage

- Establishment of online asset sharing platforms between hospitals or health authorities

- Create local supply chains

- Design equipment to be easily reparable

Service/upgrades

The service step emphasises the need for regular service and maintenance of the products to prolong product life.

Refurbish

Refurbishing PPE is key to prolonging the lifecycle, thereby optimizing product use and enabling product circularity. Listed below are some key points to consider:

- Optimize products through a redesign, enabling product circularity

- Use high-quality materials to enable reuse before requiring refurbishing

- Utilize modular design to allow for parts swapping and refurbishing

Recycling

Recycling is the next step in the circular economy after parts recovery. It is important to note that recycling is not the "go-to" solution in a circular economy as the focus is more on prolonging product lifecycle through reuse, repair and reprocessing.  Listed below are some of the things to keep in mind before recycling PPE:

- Ensure highly efficient sorting and recycling systems are in place

- Only recycle products at the end of their life cycle

- Only recycle products that cannot be reused due to outstanding circumstances

Parts recovery

The parts recovery step deals with extracting parts and components from the products, which can then add to the stream of parts supply, to be used in manufacturing new products.

Take

The first step in the linear economy involves the process of extracting raw materials required for the manufacture of products. This is typically done on an ongoing basis at an increasing rate due to the lack of used materials in the system and ever-increasing demand for various products.

Make

This component focuses primarily on efficient and cost-effective manufacturing of products, which can then be distributed for consumption. All materials used are typically harvested from natural reserves or manufactured from similar materials. There is no re-usage of previously used materials here.