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February 7, 2022

World Health Organization (WHO) Calls for Urgency in Addressing Medical Waste Concerns

Two men wearing reusable isolation gowns.

While concern for medical waste in the healthcare industry is not new, the World Health Organization is bringing a renewed and urgent focus to the issue with its recent report spotlighting the tens of thousands of tons of extra medical waste produced from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All this extra waste has put an extraordinary burden on healthcare waste management systems around the world.

WHO’s report urges healthcare facilities to incorporate safer and more environmentally sustainable waste management practices into their pandemic response to protect human and environmental health, such as investment in non-burn waste treatment technologies, focus on eco-friendly packaging and shipping, use of recyclable or biodegradable materials, and through the adoption of safe and reusable PPE.

Like other healthcare facilities across the world, many U.S. hospitals responded to growing demand for PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic by choosing disposable options over sustainable solutions. However, these choices come with a greater negative financial and environmental impact.

A number of healthcare associations and organizations recognize these impacts and have shared their conclusions through their position statements on environmental responsibility. For example, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) share that “All health care professionals have an ethical and professional responsibility to protect patients’ health through advocacy. Because human health is affected by and is dependent on the surrounding environment, health care professionals must actively work to incorporate best practices that mitigate negative environmental impact.”

Image of a man wearing a yellow reusable surgical gown.

With isolation gowns being one of the most-used pieces of PPE in the healthcare setting, changing to more environmentally friendly reusable isolation gowns is one way to help change course on this alarming trend. Research has shown that the use of reusable isolation gowns offers promising reductions in energy and water use, solid waste, as well as carbon footprint, according to a public health article titled “COVID-19 Solutions Are Climate Solutions: Lessons From Reusable Gowns. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that “reusable systems outperform disposable systems in all key environmental impacts” and that “selecting reusable gowns can help healthcare facilities meet sustainability goals.”

Likewise, studies have been conducted comparing disposable versus reusable surgical gowns.  A study published by the AORN Journal analyzed all activities from the extraction of fossil materials from the earth to the end-of-life disposal of reusable and disposable surgical gowns, as well as laundry and wastewater treatment operations to evaluate the environmental effects of each. In their study, “results showed that selection of reusable gowns rather than disposable gowns reduced natural resource energy consumption (64%), greenhouse gas emissions (66%), blue water consumption (83%), and solid waste generation (84%).”

Nurse and Surgeon in operating room setting wearing blue reusable surgical gowns and masks.

One of the greatest challenges healthcare providers face is moving toward a more sustainable, environmentally responsible culture, while ensuring patient and staff protection and comfort. In fact, comfort has been identified as a critical characteristic in ensuring PPE compliance in healthcare. Reusable gowns can offer improved comfort and protective properties while providing a sustainable choice. Standard Textile offers breathable, reusable, and liquid-Resistant isolation gowns as well as some of the highest-quality reusable surgical gowns available to the healthcare market.

Take the challenge to reduce medical waste and choose reusables!

Contact Us for Support

Reduce your medical waste. Strengthen your supply. Control your costs. Provide the protection your staff and patients need. Please contact us with any questions or concerns. We are here for assistance as you move forward with securing the essentials for your healthcare facility.



Additional supporting information:

Isolation Gowns Reusable Isolation Gowns Dramatically Reduce Environmental Footprint (

Surgical Gowns Reusable Surgical Gowns Show Environmental Improvements Over Disposables (