Biobased Healthcare

Jan. 28, 2019

Nowadays, many news outlets are reporting on the “plastic straw ban” sweeping across America. Consumers boycott disposable items like straws and cups to end the era of single-use plastic. While mainstream media focuses on the harmful effects of plastic straws, we are not considering other major environmental polluters such as the healthcare industry. Health care facilities can generate up to 25 pounds of waste per day per patient. Even worse, for 1 pound of product manufactured in the United States, 32 pounds of waste is produced. In total, hospitals account for over 850 million tons of plastic per year with approximately 50% as packaging waste. These numbers are staggering. While single-use plastic is a necessary evil in the health care setting, there are other options to be more sustainable.

Beantown Bedding® has created eco-disposable sheets that are biodegradable and compostable. The laundering process in hospitals do not always meet the microbiological standards for containing no disease-causing bacteria. Rather than putting more time and energy into washing these contaminated sheets, hospitals could opt for the Beantown bedding. The fiber contains unique qualities keeping it dry longer and more resistant to the growth of bacteria, mold, and dust mites when compared to the average cotton fiber. Made from eucalyptus, the USDA has certified these sheets as 100% biobased and as a viable option for hospitals to save energy and reduce their carbon footprint.

When considering the need for a sterile environment in hospitals, bedsheets, instruments, and gowns come to mind quickly. However, hospitals need to reduce the risk of contamination and stop the growth of microorganisms on areas such as walls, ceilings, and countertops. Many cleaning supplies are used to keep health care facilities at a certain standard, but Sherwin-Williams has launched an innovative microbicidal paint called Paint Shield®. Combining a water-based paint and a microbicide, this paint kills more than 99.9% of Staph, MRSA. E. coli, VRE, and Enterobacter aerogenes within two hours of exposure on painted surfaces. It is effective for up to four years as it continues to kill 90% of these bacteria after application. This greatly reduces the risk of cross-contamination and infections, especially for those with compromised immune systems.

Finally, many people often use plastic Band-Aids to cover small cuts and scrapes such as paper cuts, skinned knees, etc. They are used for a day or two and then thrown away and forgotten leading to these Band-Aids spending decades in landfills before they decompose. In comparison, this Australian company is making biodegradable bamboo adhesive bandages that decompose in only 10 weeks!

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This article was written by Shivani Patel, OBIC Student Assistant and Senior at The Ohio State University.