Improving the Sustainability of Medical Devices Considering the Entire Lifecycle of the Device
For manufacturers, decision-makers, and end users, considering sustainability in medical device design is becoming a significant factor. Sustainable medical devices are better for the environment and more appealing to customers. They can also provide economic benefits such as cost savings, investor appeal, and improved brand and competitive advantage. Medical device manufacturers must consider sustainability at the outset of the design phase and take the equipment’s whole lifecycle into account in order to achieve these and other benefits.
Lifecycle Sustainability of Medical Devices
People frequently consider the end of the lifecycle when thinking about the sustainability of medical devices. The device can be recycled. Can you reuse it? What are the disposal’s expenses and effects on the environment? Waste from medical devices is a major issue spreading throughout the world, especially as these devices become more complicated, include more electronic components, and use various materials.
However, managing waste is simply one aspect of a sustainable medical device. Environmental sustainability also includes design and material selection, the potential to reduce carbon emissions, energy consumption, water consumption, and material waste throughout the device’s complete lifecycle, from supply chain management, to manufacture, and distribution. The long-term viability of the device is affected by decisions taken at each step of its lifecycle.
Construction of environmentally friendly medical equipment begins with the design stage. 80% of sustainability-related choices are made in this area. The sustainability of the device will be most affected by these early choices. One can uncover the changes that make the most effective with the fewest tradeoffs by taking a more comprehensive approach to medical device sustainability.
Ways to create more environmentally friendly medical devices
There is not a single approach to increasing sustainability because every medical device/ equipment is different. Manufacturers can, however, take into account a few standard components. Here are some possible ways to boost the sustainability of devices.
- Materials selection: One can use fewer materials overall or substitute a petroleum-based
plastic with a bio-based one to make the device easier to recycle at the end of its lifecycle. Alternately, one can use glass or stainless steel instead of plastic so that it may be repaired and reused.
- Device design: Medical equipment will simply need to be disposed of after use to maintain patient safety. Some equipment, however, can be made to be reused after being disinfected between patients. Devices such as surgical forceps and endoscopes can be manufactured in both reusable and single-use formats, and focusing on the former over
the latter can considerably minimize the amount of waste.
To reduce materials use, packaging, and distribution-related carbon emissions, one can lower the overall size or weight of the product. Electronic components can be reduced to reduce the impact of their final disposal. One can look for any opportunity to minimize battery size or switch to more sustainable battery technology, such as rechargeable batteries.
- Manufacturing process: There are more environmentally friendly production options that can be explored. To reduce material waste, additive manufacturing could be employed. Not only should the finished product be environmentally friendly; but the manufacturing process should also be sustainable.
Of course, not every medical equipment can be 3D printed in its ultimate form, but prototypes have a lot more flexibility. Companies can create a variety of molds for their product with the help of 3D printing. As a result, the time and expense required to bring a product to market are drastically reduced, making sustainable manufacturing both economically and environmentally viable.
- Packaging, Distribution, and Disposal: One may look for what can be done to reduce packaging waste. Should the packaging be made of recyclable or compostable materials? Is it possible to avoid using plastic or petroleum-based foam packing elements? Also is it possible to shorten the distance between manufacturing and storage facilities to cut down on long-distance shipping? Can a single-use device be changed to reusable? Can the device or any of its components be recycled? Could it be brought back to the manufacturer to be repaired?