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Four Sustainability Updates in (and Around) Healthcare Packaging

EPA announces proposed ethylene oxide (EtO) standards, HPRC maps barriers to recycling, the Joint Commission seeks feedback on sustainability, and more. Plus, check out recent articles and May events in healthcare packaging.

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Barrier mapping case study

From the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC) as of 4/18/23: “The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is striving to become a zero-waste campus by 2025 (i.e., 90% diversion of non-hazardous waste away from landfills) through an economically sustainable waste diversion program. To make progress towards this ambitious goal within a three-year deadline, the medical center must rapidly ramp up its waste diversion and waste prevention practices. The institution has identified three key barriers it must overcome to achieve its zero-waste goal:

  • Staffing and training resource constraints
  • Lack of accurate and real-time data
  • Space limitations in its facilities

This case study explores these barriers in greater detail and outlines the solutions identified by the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.” 

Get the full story and case study download from the HPRC blog here.

EPA’s April EtO update

On April 11, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EPA proposed new standards that would “slash” ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions by 80% per year, aimed at protecting public health and reducing exposure to EtO pollution.

The two new proposals include “more stringent air emissions standards and additional protections for workers who are exposed to the gas used to sterilize medical devices and certain spices. … Together, these proposals will provide a comprehensive approach to addressing EtO pollution concerns, including cancer risk, that will increase safety in communities and for workers while providing a path to maintain a robust supply chain for sterilized medical equipment,” says EPA.

In addition to new emissions standards, EPA is proposing (among other protections):

  • Reducing the amount of EtO that may be applied for medical device sterilization while meeting applicable standards for sterility assurance;
  • Requiring engineering controls that reduce worker exposures to EtO, such as automation or emissions capture technology; and
  • Mandating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in sterilization facilities when EtO is detected using state-of-the-art monitoring technology.

EPA acknowledged that some commercial sterilization facilities have already successfully implemented some of these measures.

Get involved: EPA is seeking comment from community members, industry, and public health leaders, and will also host a public webinar on May 1, 2023, at 8:00 pm ET.

For more information on EtO, visit EPA’s website.

Sustainable Medicines Packaging Awards 2023

The Sustainable Medicines Packaging Awards 2023 are open for entries until April 21, 2023.

According to the SMP, there are two categories of awards.

  • The Design Award showcases innovations that reduce waste and increase sustainability of packaging, without compromising function.  
  • The Circularity Award showcases services, processes, or products that bring circularity into the supply chain to reduce single use. 

As you wait for the 2023 awards to be announced, check out the inaugural 2022 award winners here.

The Joint Commission seeks sustainability comments

Downstream of life science packaging facilities: Practice Greenhealth is getting word out to its network that the Joint Commission is developing new Environmental Sustainability requirements for the Hospital (HAP) and Critical Access Hospital (CAH) programs to address leadership, measurement, actions, and evaluation. As the Joint Commission reports, "Health care organizations can no longer ignore their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. Hospitals consume energy, such as electricity and natural gas, and use materials, such as disposables, that contribute to increased waste and greenhouse gas emissions.” The JC is seeking feedback on the proposed requirements from the health care community.

Comments and feedback are being accepted through May 3, 2023. Click here to access the survey.


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