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HSE ‘committed’ to strategy on PPE environment impact

The HSE is “committed” to the establishment of a national strategy regarding the environmental “considerations” of increased use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic, this newspaper has been told. A recent study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine found the carbon footprint of PPE provided to healthcare staff in England, in the first six months of the pandemic, was “equivalent to flying from London to New York 244 times every day”.

The study suggested ways to lessen the environmental impact, such as “reusing gowns and face shields where possible, recycling PPE waste”, and manufacturing PPE in the UK.

“All waste PPE, as HSE healthcare risk waste, is treated in Ireland for energy recovery, ie, zero landfill,” a HSE spokesperson told the Medical Independent.

“In the context of Covid-19, PPE is deemed to be clinical waste and is disposed with in the same manner as other clinical waste.”

There are some reusable PPE products in the system, but the bulk comprises of single-use items.

“HSE procurement has been working on a long-term approach for PPE, including establishing national pandemic stocks, developing indigenous manufacturing, and reducing supply chain risk.

“HSE procurement is committed to playing a full part in the roll-out of a national strategy for dealing with environmental considerations as they relate to both the disposal and re-use of PPE in healthcare.

“At present chemical waste disposal, which applies to products such as hand sanitiser, is covered on the current HSE contract.”

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