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Greentech solutions propel the medical devices industry

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Sustainability combined with innovation can promote cost savings and give healthcare businesses a competitive edge.

The medical device industry still has a long way to go when it comes to 'going green', but a wave of change is underway with an increasing number of manufacturers shifting towards sustainable and innovative methods to conserve energy and reduce their environmental impact.

Sustainable medical equipment can be advantageous for businesses in terms of cost savings, investor attraction, greater brand recognition, and gaining a competitive advantage, in addition to being better for the environment and appealing to consumers. Medical device manufacturers must consider sustainability at the outset of the design phase and take the equipment's whole lifecycle into account if they are to gain these and other advantages.

According to Hamid Dean Refai, General Manager at WebOps Global, several countries are setting targets to help make the world a more sustainable place by 2050. “Some of these plans and targets are ambitious but thanks to the advent of progressive new technological developments, they now have the potential to become reality. Technology is fundamentally changing the way we live and work, and in recent years, sustainability has been a key driver of technological advancement. Today, as the world faces a series of unprecedented challenges, technology can play a crucial role in building a more sustainable future.”

The healthcare industry is a significant source of waste and greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for 4.4 per cent of net emissions worldwide. While some of this is produced directly by healthcare institutions, more than 70 per cent of relevant emissions are produced across the supply chain. This is notable during the creation and disposal of pharmaceuticals and medical device products, as well as the use of energy throughout the entire supply chain and direct delivery of care.

Furthermore, approximately five million tonnes of garbage are produced annually by hospitals in the US alone. Despite having recycling or reprocessing systems in place, there are numerous obstacles that prevent eligible material from being disposed of responsibly.

“Technological advances in health, business, and the environment provide organisations and communities with a wealth of opportunities through the introduction of new jobs and by making operational processes more streamlined, for instance. Environmental sustainability helps to maintain our way of life, as well as social and economic requirements. For example, green technology such as solar panels and wind turbines can help to replace practices and methods that damage or deplete natural resources with more sustainable and efficient ones,” says Refai.

Some green tech innovations have already made their way to the market. For example, the Welch Allyn's Green Series is one of the first medical exam lights in the US to use energy-efficient, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) rather than halogen lamps. They emit brilliant white light with a colour temperature of 5,500K and have a lifespan of 50,000 hours without needing a new bulb.

The Holst Centre, an independent open-innovation R&D centre, and the Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (imec) nanoelectronics research division, on the other hand, created a wireless, battery-free, two-channel EEG system in 2008 that is primarily powered by body heat and light.

In addition, the effective and self-contained Neptune 2 waste management system is one of Stryker's eco-friendly products. Due to the dual-canister design of the system, additional containers and frequent cleaning of waste containers are not as necessary. Additionally, it cuts down on the time spent by healthcare professionals handling waste.

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