The U.S. healthcare sector is the second most intensive commercial user of energy. Hospitals are one of the largest energy users, contributing 8 percent of the U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the purchase of healthcare goods and services, and produce more than 4.67 million tons of waste each year. Realizing the significance of these impacts, NewGen Surgical was started in 2012 with a vision to make single-use medical devices more sustainable through their redesign and material inputs.
Striving towards a more circular economy for healthcare, NewGen Surgical aims to protect the health of people and the planet by eliminating chemicals of concern and toxicity, reducing energy and non-renewable resources, reducing the amount of plastic produced, used and discarded, and reduce or eliminate plastic waste going to landfill or incineration.
We spoke to Rob Chase, founder and President of NewGen Surgical, to learn more.
While we constantly hear about sustainability efforts being made by the manufacturing, textile, food and fashion industries, for example, there seems to be less momentum in healthcare, despite the growing link between human and environmental health. Why do you think this is? Can you give us a quick overview of the current state of the healthcare industry with regards to sustainability?
Many in the healthcare industry — doctors, nurses, hospital leadership — recognize the strong connection between human health, the environment, and their mission to care for people and support healthy communities. While there seems to be less connection and attribution from the supply chain that contributes to the waste and pollution generated while delivering care. However, this is changing. Several organizations, some international, are advocating for more sustainable practices in healthcare. A select group include Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Climate and Health Alliance, Doctors for Climate, Health Care Without Harm, and Practice Greenhealth.
There is a growing market demand by hospitals for innovative, sustainable product solutions; however, to date, the medical device and product industry has not responded in a way to meet that demand.
It’s a complicated space with so many pressing changes in healthcare — hospitals and supply chains need to meet a growing need, at lower prices and in more complicated pay scenarios. Adding sustainability to product considerations can sometimes be seen as adding more complexity to an already taxed system. However, the increasing value put on connecting climate-smart purchasing to healthier outcomes and communities is making this an equation one cannot ignore in healthcare.
We have seen other industries offer sustainable product innovation that creates differentiation. In healthcare, however, the focus has been, and continues to be, around cost and ease of use resulting in more single-use, disposable plastic medical products. What we need are products that meet clinical efficacy criteria, but minimize the environmental impact throughout the life cycle of the product.
Healthcare has been able to take advantage of other cross-industry sustainability initiatives, such as LEED building design, local sourcing of healthy food, moving to renewable energy, smarter transportation, and the elimination of toxic chemicals in cleaners. What is missing is the sustainability solution specific for healthcare and the redesigning of existing products with human and environmental health as design criteria. Change will most likely be ignited by small, innovative medical device companies, who see an opportunity to differentiate themselves with sustainable versions of the traditional surgical products.
Why did you start NewGen Surgical? How are you helping healthcare transition to a more sustainable model?
NewGen Surgical was founded on an idea to create sustainable surgical products — and a personal desire to make a difference in the healthcare industry — knowing that as a society, we need to act now to mitigate climate change and the pollution of our environment.
NewGen Surgical is now helping the healthcare sector transition to a more sustainable model by creating a new supply chain based on renewable input materials and moving away from our dependence on petroleum and single-use plastics. By creating products that meet all the performance and clinical needs, while eliminating the plastic (production and waste) associated with single-use products, we are demonstrating a path forward for a more sustainable future for healthcare.
We have also built a great team of people committed to our mission. With a collective concern about climate change, use of non-renewable natural resources, waste and plastic pollution in our environment, and the affects it has on our health and our planet, all of us at NewGen Surgical believe it is our responsibility to put our respective skills to work protecting our environment. (…)
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