Tonnes of Plastic Reduced with Reusable Sharps Containers


Authors:   Brett McPherson, Mihray Sharip and Terry Grimmond

Publication:   “Impact on life cycle carbon footprint of converting from disposable to reusable sharps containers in a large US hospital geographically distant from manufacturing and processing facilities” Peer J 



What is the study?

This peer reviewed study examines the impact of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions on nation-wide transport distances, manufacturing, container washing and waste treatment disposal when a large US health system converted from disposable to reusable sharps containers. 


Design and Methods

The study’s scope was to examine life cycle GHG emissions during 12 months of facility-wide use of disposable sharps containers and reusable sharps containers at Loma Linda University Health (LLUH). The facility is an 1100-bed US, 5-hospital system. Using a “cradle to grave” life cycle GHG tool we calculated the annual GHG emissions of CO2, CH4 and N2O expressed in metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (MTCO2eq) for each container system. Primary energy input data was used wherever possible and region-specific energy-impact conversions were used to calculate GHG of each unit process over a 12-month period. The scope included Manufacture, Transport, Washing, and Treatment & disposal. GHG emissions from all unit process within these four life cycle stages were summed to estimate each container-system’s carbon footprint. Emission totals were workload-normalized and analysed using CHI2test with P ≤ 0.05 and rate ratios at 95% CL.


What did we learn?

After assessment of the 12 month study it was concluded that: 

  • Large reusable sharps containers transport distances lessen the differential between disposable sharps containers and reusable sharps containers GHG, however, reusable containers still achieved significant GHG reductions over disposable containers.

  • Transport & electricity cleanliness are key factors in GHG of sharps waste management.

  • Reusable Sharps Containers lifespan has minimal effect on carbon footprint comparisons of container-types.

  • Purchasing decisions can significantly contribute to Healthcare Facilities' GHG-reduction strategies.

  • Institution-wide adoption of reusable sharps containers can reduce GHG with minimal staff behaviour-change.


“… Converting to reusable sharps containers, Loma Linda reduced its annual GHG by 162.4 MTCO2eq, and annually eliminated 50.2 tonnes of plastic disposable sharps containers and 8.1 tonnes of cardboard from the sharps waste stream.”



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