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Assessment confirms environmental, economic benefits of reprocessing compression sleeves

“Extending the life of single-use medical devices through reprocessing can save hospitals money and reduce their waste and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Meg McClanahan, Global Portfolio Director of Sustainable Technologies™, a Cardinal Health business and leading provider of single-use device (SUD) collections and reprocessing services in the U.S. “The desire to reduce both costs and environmental impact has driven a growth in demand for reprocessing, especially in recent years, and has accelerated the growth of our business.”

From its facility near Tampa, Florida, Sustainable Technologies now serves more than 3,100 hospitals and ambulatory service centers across the country. The business reprocesses compression sleeves, electrocardiogram lead wires and cables, air transfer mats and many other medical devices. (Learn more about how Sustainable Technologies works and the impact it has here.)

Last year, McClanahan and her team engaged a third party to conduct a life cycle assessment (LCA) of reprocessed compression sleeves. The LCA compared the environmental impact of single-use intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) sleeves with versions of the same device that had been reprocessed through U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved processes. The compression sleeves are used to help prevent deep vein thrombosis; they help keep blood flowing and prevent blood clots while patients are ill or recovering from surgery, for example.

The LCA measured the product’s environmental impact across 16 different categories, and concluded that there are both environmental and economic benefits in using reprocessed compression sleeves. The overall environmental footprint of a reprocessed device was found to be, on average, 43% lower than that of a single-use device. In a breakdown of the life cycle assessment results, reprocessed compression sleeves had a 40% lower carbon footprint than single-use sleeves and reduced hospital waste disposal costs by 90%. The LCA was published in December 2023 in the peer-reviewed journal, Risk Management and Healthcare Policy.

An LCA requires the gathering and analysis of data about the energy consumption, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water usage, waste generation of a product, and more. The results show a product’s carbon footprint at every stage of its life, from the raw materials that go into it; the energy, water, carbon and waste generated during its manufacturing; the materials and methods used in packaging and distribution; the amount of energy the product requires to use; and the impact of the product’s disposal or reprocessing. “An LCA is an important sustainability tool,” McClanahan explained. “In very simple terms, it’s an analysis of how a product impacts the environment over the course of its life.” With an understanding of the full life cycle of a product, manufacturers and reprocessors can see where in their processes they can make improvements to reduce environmental impacts and costs.

“We’re pleased with the results of this LCA, which give us greater insight into the positive impact of reprocessed compression sleeves and further evidence of our sustainability efforts – a key priority for our business and for our customers,” McClanahan said. Last year, for example, as reported in Cardinal Health’s Fiscal 2023 Environmental, Social and Governance Report, Sustainable Technologies collected more than 17 million SUDs for reprocessing and diverted 5.24 million pounds of waste from landfills.

“We expect to reprocess more products and continue to reduce landfill diversion this fiscal year,” McClanahan added. “We are excited to share these results with our customers and the industry, and we continue to evaluate ways to further reduce the impact of healthcare delivery on the environment.”

About the Sustainable Technologies LCA: The assessment compared IPC sleeves that differed only in their use model: one is a single-use device, the other is reprocessed. The LCA was performed in alignment with ISO 14044, a standard created by the International Organization for Standardization which provides guidelines for conducting LCAs. The researchers gathered data in cooperation with multiple IPC sleeve manufacturers. You can read the full LCA here.

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Cardinal Health is a distributor of pharmaceuticals, a global manufacturer and distributor of medical and laboratory products, and a provider of performance and data solutions for healthcare facilities. Subscribe to our News Alerts to get all of our latest news.