© obs/Asklepios Kliniken GmbH & Co. KGaA/Torben Röhricht

Every year, Germany’s hospitals produce 1.2 million tonnes of waste. Single-use surgical instruments make up 8,000 tonnes of this total. A joint recycling project by the Asklepios Klinikum hospital in Harburg and Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, aims to significantly reduce the amount of waste resulting from surgery. In order to achieve this, the surgical teams at the Harburg hospital will start collecting single-use instruments with immediate effect. These will then be appropriately recycled by the waste management company Remondis and returned to the materials cycle. “In our hospital, we use sophisticated, high-tech devices that need to be discarded after one use for hygiene reasons. It’s incomprehensible to us that there was no environmentally friendly way of recycling these items until now. That’s why we are very happy to be working with Ethicon, the Hamburg recycling software start-up Resourcify and Remondis to kick off a project that will ensure greater sustainability and environmental protection in hospitals,” explains Dr.Stefan Meierling, head of thoracic surgery at the Harburg hospital and co-initiator of the scheme.

The pilot project will test the use of a digitally supported returns system for Ethicon’s recyclable endocutters and circular staplers in the operating theatre. These stapling instruments help surgeons ensure the safe removal or connection of tissues and organs during procedures such as keyhole surgery. From now on, the instruments will be disinfected after surgical use, collected separately and picked up at regular intervals. After that, they will be sterilised, disassembled and fed into the recycling chain. According to Resourcify, the project could save around 2,500 kg of CO2 annually in Harburg alone. And as the recycling is carried out in Germany, the emissions from transport are also minimal. Previously, most hospitals had these products disposed of through thermal recovery, which not only costs the hospitals money but also generates CO2 emissions. On top of that, the process results in the loss of valuable raw materials. The project’s goal is to recycle more than 80% of this waste and return it to the materials cycle.

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