Canadian project focusing on PPE reduction and re-use

Kent Waddington, Linda Varangu, and Mia Sarrazin of the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care, discuss a project in Canada that sought to verify that hospital use of PPE and some medical singleuse plastic (mSUP) materials could be successfully and safely managed by focusing on the preferred principles of a circular economy – reduction and re-use.

COVID-19 was first confirmed in Canada at the end of January 2020. With this came great urgency to respond in a way that embraced existing infection control and treatment protocols while battling a rapidly expanding and unfamiliar enemy, as well as an unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment (PPE). Early in the pandemic, Health Canada predicted an estimated 63,000 tonnes of plastic PPE would end up as waste, and ultimately in landfills.

In November 2020, a project – ‘Towards a Safe, Secure and Sustainable Reusable PPE System in Canadian Health Care’ – was initiated, with financial support from Environment and Climate Change Canada. It set out to demonstrate that hospital-use of PPE and some medical single-use plastic (mSUP) materials could be successfully and safely managed by focusing on the preferred principles of a circular economy: reduction and re-use. This would be achieved firstly by addressing opportunities to reduce, and then by choosing products that can be re-used. Only after these two avenues had been pursued to the maximum would recycling be undertaken – to as great an extent as possible. 

Government of Canada priorities to move Canadians toward zero plastic waste by 2030 were key driving factors for this project. The federal government supports the development of a new, ambitious, legally-binding global agreement that takes a lifecycle approach to addressing plastic pollution and reducing microplastics in the environment. Other complementary government priorities include supporting a climate-resilient, sustainable, and low carbon health system, and moving toward circular economy practices within the Canadian economy.

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