A Circular Healthcare Economy; a feasibility study to reduce surgical stainless steel waste

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The Circular Economy faces a growing interest. The aim of this study is to determine the feasibility of a circular approach towards reusing discarded hospital instruments and stainless steel waste. Secondary, this study aims to identify if any cost savings can be realized by following a circular instrument repair and recycling approach. During 6 months SS waste from three hospitals was collected. Both repair as well as recycling possibilities were evaluated by analyzing the waste composition and by calculating the percentage of SS that could be recovered and turned into raw material. Cost savings were calculated for three categories: (1) extending the life cycle of instruments by repair instead of disposal, (2) recycling of instruments by means of melting it into raw material, and (3) savings on waste handling costs. A total of 1,380 kg instrument waste was collected of which 237 kg was refurbished and returned to the hospitals for being put in use, resulting in savings of € 38,868 (1). Of the 1,143 kg SS instruments, sheet material was made to manufacture components for new instrument baskets. The SS revenues of € 1,040 were sufficient, covering logistical and disinfection costs (2). The hospital savings on waste costs were € 316 (3). The total gain for the hospitals were € 39,184. These results indicate that circularity as a sustainable model could provide a basis for a new approach in surgical waste management, realizing cost savings and environmental benefits on the long run.