We're leading the way in Product Stewardship - Here's why it's important
Medsalv’s programmes are the best example of product stewardship in New Zealand, in terms of both waste and cost reduction, but what really is Product Stewardship?
Product Stewardship is when someone accepts responsibility for reducing a product’s environmental impacts. Essentially, it is managing the environmental footprint of different products and materials and at different stages of their life cycle (manufacture, use, disposal).
Usually, Product Stewardship is managed or facilitated (at least in part) by the manufacturer - think of the 10c refund you might get for a glass bottle at a facility in South Australia - but often there are third parties that step up to the plate, like retailers or consumers. Kerbside recycling is a good example, and so is reprocessing of Single-use Medical Devices.
Product Stewardship is increasingly important as a tool to help us progress from a Linear Economy (one where we take, make, break and dispose of products) to a Circular Economy (where we leverage materials at the end of their life and feed them back into service).
This circular approach helps to eliminate thousands of tonnes of waste and hazardous emissions that would have been produced from a Linear Economy - and wider adoption of Product Stewardship increases the benefits of each scheme.
Product Stewardship examples commonly involve the original designer or manufacturer at the start of a product's life - as waste and pollution can be designed out of the product; through reprocessing, we extend the life of Single-use Medical Devices and this reduces the environmental harm they would otherwise cause.
At Medsalv we reprocess Single-use Medical Devices at their normal end of life, where they would otherwise be destined for landfill:
We re-visit the design and manufacturing process by reverse engineering each device so we know how to re-process it, and what tests need to be conducted to ensure it works as new.
Once we collect a device from a hospital, we place a unique identifier on it, before cleaning, testing, inspecting and re-packaging the device
We then return the device in the most environmentally efficient manner, for safe clinical re-use.
This two-part process of reprocessing and reuse continues until the device fails one of our many inspections.
Through our reprocessing processes, we become the manufacturer of record - in New Zealand the sponsor (this means we are treated exactly the same as any other manufacturer).
Knowing the value and recyclability of components of the product, we split them apart to be recycled where possible. This minimises the amount of failed devices that end up in landfill.
One of the key benefits of Medsalv’s programmes for hospitals is that while other Product Stewardship schemes impose costs on those involved in them, our programmes create considerable savings for each hospital.
You can implement Product Stewardship by taking responsibility for the products you choose to use, at each stage of importing, using and disposing of them.
New Zealand imports almost all (97%) of its medical equipment, so the following considerations are a good starting point:
Where is the product or device being made?
What type of environmental record has this country got? Is the supply chain transparent?
Are there unnecessary transport-related emissions involved?
Lower value devices can often take up considerable space translating into higher transport-related carbon emissions per product: Can it be made locally with less environmental impact?
What is the device made from?
If this device is to be reprocessed, is it durable or has the manufacturer deliberately made it weak or difficult to clean?
Is there a reusable option that can work for my hospital?
Are there any recyclable materials, and programmes, that can extract these materials after the product's useful life, instead of mining or refining materials for new products?
Will it last its intended lifetime?
How does the product get to you?
How much packaging does it have and is it really required?
Is the product sent via air, sea or land freight? - airfreight is far more carbon emission-intensive than sea or rail/truck freight, so it should be avoided as much as possible.
Are there recycling facilities for the packaging?
Get in touch here to find out how we can help you and your hospital to reduce your costs and the amount of landfill waste you create through our reprocessing programs