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Single-Use or Re-Usable: Which is better?

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

The Hospital Procurement Process

Sugarcane provides a sustainable, eco-friendly material for medical holloware

In the procurement process, hospitals have to consider many options when choosing which items to buy.

Traditionally, the two big issues were:

  • Medical-use – Is this a medical-quality product? This is crucial at a purely functional level. If it’s not medical-grade, it’s not an option.

  • Cost – Is this affordable? With limited funds to spend, cheaper options clearly have a headstart on more expensive alternatives.

An emerging challenge for hospital procurement is the Triple Win. (see our blog post).

The Triple Win focuses on:

> Social – What is the cost to people?

> Economic – What is the cost to our business?

> Environment – What is the cost to our planet?

One of the important considerations when purchasing products with the environment in mind is whether they are single-use or re-usable.

Re-Usable Products

At a simple level, we might presume that a product like stainless steel hollowware or metal ware is a good option because it seemingly lasts a lifetime. It can be reused time after time without really wearing out.

But when we analyse this at a deeper level there are some significant drawbacks:

  • They cost more than plastics or natural products

  • They are made from non-renewable materials meaning we are consuming the planet’s limited resources

  • They require high heat and large amounts of energy to make

  • They cost more to clean and re-use

  • They are heavy and require more transport energy to ship to your location

  • They provide a risk to patients and staff through cross-contamination because they are re-used

Plastic Single-Use Products

The big benefit of single-use products is that we can dramatically reduce the risk of cross-infection between patients and staff. In a hospital environment, this can literally be a life or death issue.

However, what we normally think about with single-use products is the waste. Given they are only used once we have to buy lots of them and we also have to dispose of them often.

For some single-use products, this is a big problem and for others, it is not – it depends on what they are made from.

Plastic hollowware has it’s limits:

  • They are made from chemicals which can be damaging to the environment. The wrong plastic can also cause leaching into the bloodstream. This was a problem in early disposable water bottles.

  • They may take up to 500 years to decompose in a landfill.

  • They often cannot be recycled.

In other words, the use of plastic hollowware creates a whole new problem – waste.

Natural Single-use Products

In recent years, a strong alternative to plastics has emerged in the form of naturally-based products like the EcoAid Sugarcane series of medical-grade hollowware.

These eco-friendly products have a number of advantages over plastic:

  • They are made from 100% sugarcane fibre (bagasse) – a naturally grown plant fibre and renewable resource and a bi-products of sugar production.

  • They are 100% biodegradable in 60-90 days leaving no waste.

  • They can be up to 75% cheaper than equivalent single-use plastic products. West Sydney Local Health saved approximately $185,000 in a year through a single product purchase of sugarcane-based products compare with the previously used plastic products.

With all of the advantages of single-use products and none of the downsides, the EcoAid Sugarcane series is a good alternative on all three levels of the Triple Win.

Making good choices

The issue of whether to choose single-use or re-usable products in your hospital can be a simple one when you consider the advantages of a natural and renewable product such as the EcoAid Sugarcane range when compared to stainless steel or plastic.



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