Picture the environmental life cycle of many disposable surgical instruments. Iron ore is shipped to China and smelted, fashioned as single-use instruments and exported to other countries for use. In some cases clinicians use these instruments once and then discard them. Much that comes into patient contact is routinely used only once. This includes gowns, surgical drapes and covers for patients, anaesthetic breathing equipment, face masks and bed mats. Most hospitals are experiencing an increase in waste during the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily due to the increased use of disposable PPE. Health systems are already under intense pressure to serve the community while remaining financially viable. Waste reduction offers hospitals an opportunity to both decrease their environmental impact and reduce their overall costs. The shortage of disposable PPE during the pandemic provides an additional reason to consider and investigate ‘reusable’ PPE.

-Lisa James

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