Dutch research institute wants to make hospital stays greener

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In the Netherlands, Wageningen University & Research is looking at ways to increase the use of biobased and biodegradable products in hospitals as a way to improve the carbon footprint of healthcare.

The World Health Organization estimates 85% of the 0.5 kilograms of waste generated per hospital bed in high-income countries is domestic waste, such as catering supplies. Most of this waste is incinerated or put in a landfill.

“We have done some studies on what would be interesting products,” says Christiaan Bolck, program manager for biobased materials at Wageningen University & Research.  “Quite a lot of materials used now days are already digestible or biodegradable because they are made from cellulose fibers.” These include paper cups, tissues, and clothing. Cutlery and trays from other biobased feedstocks are also widely available.

More challenging items, such as syringes and blood bags, would require development. “You could make safe versions of many of these from bio-based materials, but for now we are focusing on more generic everyday items that also happen to be used in hospitals,” adds Bolck.