How to bring Sustainability to Medical Device

The first Medtech Sustainability Forum was held in Boston last week at Foley and organized by the Action Innovation Hub and Innovation Hub at UMass Lowell. Leading experts in the field assembled from all over the world to answer the question of how to bring sustainability to Medtech. Its a daunting question for a number of reasons, which were reinforced by the speakers. Some big takeaways:

  • Packaging seems to be a low hanging fruit and a win-win-win scenario. Reducing the amount of packaging, reducing packaging size and making packaging readily recycling seems possible for many products. Also reducing the amount of printed material (IFU) is another path to reduce waste and a target for recycling. This ultimately lowers packed cost. By reducing packed size and weight, sterilization costs and freight costs (and related emissions) are also reduced while allowing customers to stock more product in the same space. Truly a win-win-win. The HPRC published a comprehensive guidebook that illustrates best practices.
  • Challenges still exist around the use of virgin plastics (no regrind allowed!), single use and contamination. One should consider turning these weaknesses into strengths where possible. If devices can be broken into an easily recyclable noncontaminated assembly and a contaminated assembly then there is a path for recycling if an interested vendor and willingness of the customer can be realized. Advanced/chemical/molecular recycling is also a possibility though at a higher cost at this time. Ultimately a device must be safe and easy to use and that trumps sustainability.
  • Hot runner tools should be used instead of cold runner since medical devices are typically “no regrind allowed” and runners may be throw away if they can not be recycled immediately at the molder
  • Regulation may be coming in the next 3 to 5 years. NHS has a net zero plan that starts in 2030. Guidance is in progress in the form of TPR 1/7/5 BS 8887 in the UK and ASTM WK88282 in the US.
  • Where possible designers and engineers should also consider remanufacturing, that was just white papered by FDA, at the same time that serviceability is considered since reuse is typically even better than recycling.

Bayard will put some new talking points in our standard PRD and SOP to raise sustainability with customers and take wins where we can while still maintaining maximum performance, safety and cost effectiveness.

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