Industries That Benefit from Reusable Materials
As awareness grows for reducing carbon footprints, businesses are making more socially and environmentally responsible decisions. The increased production of reusable supplies can help companies transition into greener habits. Here are common industries that will tangibly benefit from this initiative.
Health Care Industry
In the 1960s, disposable gowns, towels, and drapes were introduced to the health care industry with the rationale that these items provided better barrier protection. While some may still argue that disposable supplies are more sanitary, the advances in technology over the past 50 years have provided us with reusable items that are just as safe. A 2010 survey conducted by the Washington Post revealed that United States hospitals disposed of nearly 5.9 million tons of garbage in 2008. In a more specific study, The University of Maryland Medical Center reported that in 2010, using reusable supplies prevented the disposal of 138,748 pounds of waste and saved $38,000 on hauling costs. Additionally, disposable patient gowns account for 2 percent of all hospital waste, and 80 percent of all hospitals still use disposable gowns. Considering that cloth gowns can be reused at least 50 times on average, the benefits of using reusable gowns instead of disposables are staggering.
Reusable garments and towels are also a more cost-effective approach. While the initial expenses may appear excessive, the long-terms savings outweigh the use of disposable products. With so many reusable options like linens available to the health care industry, its decision to make “greener” choices can have a huge impact on reducing carbon footprints.
Manufacturing and Pharmaceutical Industry
One of the top priorities for manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies is to provide clean garments for their employees. Since the garments have to meet standard sterility requirements, the use of disposables is highly prevalent in these industries. However, modern technologies have made it possible for sterile garment options to extend beyond the traditional disposables. For example, antimicrobial finishes on reusable garments prevent the release of contaminants to the sterile environment.
Considering that disposable garments are only worn once and then incinerated or disposed in a landfill, the impact to the environment is severe. In addition to saving the environment, reusable sterile goggles and reusable sterile mops may prove to offer some financial incentive. A survey indicated that companies can save up to 30 percent just by using reusable clean room garments, which can be extreme, considering that even small facilities spend serious money on waste incineration or disposal.
The hospitality industry, which includes hotels and restaurants, relies heavily on the use of disposable products such as paper towels and napkins. Hotel guests alone are estimated to generate at least 2.2 pounds of waste every day. Considering that manufacturing paper napkins and towels is responsible for the loss of 17 million trees and generates around 2 billion pounds of waste annually, hotels and restaurants are in a unique position to make a huge impact in reducing these numbers.
The EPA reveals that cloth towels take up to 90 percent less energy to manufacture compared to paper towels and disposable wipers. Disposables generate as much as three times more landfill waste than reusable cloth towels. In addition, linen napkins can be laundered and reused over 100 times. With paper products making up over 28 percent of landfill waste annually, there is a huge incentive in terms of sustainability if hotels and restaurants adopt the green initiative.
Being socially responsible is not the only incentive for the hospitality industry to make the shift towards using reusable supplies. For example, encouraging guests to reuse their towels and have their linens changed only when necessary would minimize the amount of water waste, as well as reduce detergent and energy use.
Many restaurants and hotels around the world have adopted environmentally friendly practices. Such practices include providing shampoo and soap in dispensers, composting organic wastes, initiating campaigns to get their guests to reuse and recycle, and investing in better waste management programs.
Everything we need for survival hinges on the finite natural resources around us. Given this perspective, sustainability is a concern that should affect us all. Some industries are poised to make choices that have drastic impacts on the environment. Businesses are not the only ones who need to change, as ordinary citizens, such as guests at a hotel, can also play an important part. After all, it’s the small changes we make that can snowball into a huge difference for the environment.
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Green Lantern: How much trash does a hospital produce? The Washington Post, 2010. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.