Seven garbage bags of waste per intensive care patient per day, and that is just a fraction of the environmental impact of entire hospitals. Circularity is the answer, but how to achieve that without impacting the quality of healthcare or straining an already overburdened work force? An interdisciplinary Convergence collaboration rises to the challenge.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a mixed blessing in a time where single-use plastics in healthcare were rapidly becoming the new normal. ‘On the one hand, we were so busy providing high quality healthcare under an insurge of patients that any sustainability efforts were put on the backburner,’ Hunfeld says. ‘But hallways full of wastebaskets crammed with single-use protective gear also sent a powerful, urgent message.’ If that weren’t enough, the volatility in supply, caused by long supply chains and harbours being closed at a moment’s notice, also stressed the need for circularity.
As soon as the COVID dust had settled somewhat, an upbeat interdisciplinary team set to work. ‘Now is the time to reduce the healthcare sector’s ecological footprint – for healthy people and a healthy world,’ Diehl says. ‘We have the combined ingenuity of TU Delft, Erasmus MC, and Erasmus University, more than 15 green teams in Erasmus MC are all geared up, and the national Green Deal 3.0 on Sustainable Healthcare has just been signed. We believe that a 100% circular intensive care department is feasible by 2030, and entire hospitals by 2050.’