You probably know them, the bed pads at hospitals, rehab centers or doctor’s offices. But did you know that these bed pads are in the top 10 environmental impact hotspots in an Intensive Care Unit. At UMCG alone, 890 underpads are used per day! That’s 325,000 per year, and we’re only talking about one of 113 hospital locations in the Netherlands. So there is a huge profit (or savings) to be made here.
making medical products more sustainable
Klaske Geene is studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Groningen. For her graduation research, she wants to make a medical product more sustainable. And that’s how Klaske ended up at Ecoras. Together with Jon Salt and Micha Klaarenbeek, she came up with the idea of designing a sustainable alternative for medical underpads. Klaske starts with a comparative LCA (life cycle assessment) of the bed pads and the reusable variant. The disposable bed pads contain different types of plastic, which also makes it difficult to recycle. As a matter of fact, this is hardly done yet. The reusable variant can be used 100 times, but the cleaning process has a considerable environmental impact. So the comparative LCA should show how the disposable bed pads compare to the reusable variants in terms of environmental impact.
An LCA is like a scavenger hunt
“An LCA is actually like a scavenger hunt and that is exactly what makes it so much fun,” says Klaske. “My scavenger hunt starts with a hospital to find out what mats they use and who washes the reusable pads for them. Then I contacted the laundry and they in turn gave me the name of the wholesaler where they buy the mats. After contacting the wholesaler, I ended up with the supplier who manufactures the mats. From them I will hopefully get information about what materials the reusable pad is made of (and in what percentages), and possibly through them I can also find out what the gas and electricity consumption of the production process is.” Finding out all that data is a real treasure hunt. It takes a lot of time, but once it is known, it can also be recorded. Larger companies will be required to have this kind of data on their products from 2024 (CSRD Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive). You’d better prepare for that in advance, because although it is an one-off, it is also a very time-consuming job. Ecoras advises and assists companies with these new European regulations. “The other day I had also received the brand ‘dumoulin’ from a hospital,” Klaske laughs. But no matter what I typed in, ‘dumoulin pad’ or ‘dumoulin incontinence’ or even the entire order number, all I got was information about the famous cyclist. After a whole search, I finally came up with a company in the south of Belgium through Linkedin.” Once Klaske had this information, she set about designing a sustainable alternative. “First brainstorming about what could be more sustainable and then I want to start working out the best option.” Good luck Klaske, we at Ecoras are curious to see what you discover and design. If you want to know more about LCAs, click here.
Curious about other Ecoras projects around making medical products sustainable? Then read our story on making hospital waste circular.