Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 40

FOCUS

ADVANCED TEXTILES

Disposable personal protective
equipment (PPE) is playing a
critical role in fighting COVID-19
infections. But now used masks
and gloves are littering parking
lots, city streets, country walks
and showing up in oceans and
waterways. Photo: China Global
Television Network.

The disposable PPE
dilemma
The pandemic is driving the development of more sustainable PPE.
BY DEBRA COBB

F
Recyclable durability
The durability of reusable barrier
fabrics, such as those by Burlington®
Medical, allow the life of a garment
to be extended past its original use.
According to the American Reusable
Textile Association, instead of being
thrown out after each patient encounter,
reusable isolation gowns can be washed,
sterilized and reused 75 to 100 times.
Photo: Getty Images Cultura RF.

rom community masks and health workers' kits, to hospital gowns, drapes and
wraps, disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) is playing a critical role in
the battle against COVID-19 infections. But now there is a mountain of disposable
PPE that's creating a whole new set of problems. Used masks and gloves are littering
parking lots, city streets, country walks and showing up in our oceans and waterways.
Hospital gowns, drapes and wraps-some uncontaminated-are being incinerated or
dumped into landfills.
Practice Greenhealth, a Reston, Va.-based nonprofit health-care membership association
that provides sustainability solutions, points out that hospitals produce an average of 30
pounds of waste per patient per day. According to its website, "Most hospitals are experiencing
an increase in waste during the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily due to the increased use of
disposable PPE." As the pandemic continues, hospitals and other stakeholders are seeking
more environmentally friendly PPE options that are cleanable, reusable or recyclable.
THE CASE FOR REUSABLE PPE
Most hospitals in the U.S. cite safety, cost and convenience as key reasons for choosing to use
disposable nonwovens. Single-use, nonwoven polypropylene PPE may appear less costly on a
per item basis, but it relies on sourcing from China, which currently controls some 80 percent
of PPE manufacturing. Factor in the costs of shipping, current U.S. tariffs, and incineration
or waste disposal, and a false economy emerges.
According to the American Reusable Textile Association, instead of being thrown out after
each patient encounter, reusable isolation gowns can be washed, sterilized and reused 75 to
100 times. Laundering processes are being updated, moving out of hospital sites to regional
clean room services with more energy-efficient equipment, where wash protocol and steam
sterilization remove contamination, including particulate matter.
In additional to their environmental impact, disposable gowns and drapes often get negative
feedback from surgeons and surgical technologists for thermal comfort issues, tearing and
size, according to Project Greenhealth. Nelson Bebo, vice president of sales, Burlington®
Medical, a division of Elevate Textiles™, adds that a key advantage of reusable fabrics is that
they provide greater assurance of being available when critical PPE is needed most.

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Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020

Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - Cover1
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - Cover2
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 1
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 2
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 3
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Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 7
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