The Advantages of Reusable Clean Room Garments over Disposables

There are several different industries where clean room garments are needed, such as healthcare, pharmaceutical, and semiconductor production. Ensuring the safety of your employees in work areas where clean room uniforms are required is the employer’s responsibility. Employers have the option to provide either reusable or disposable cleanroom wear for their employees. While disposables might seem the ideal solution, since the garments are worn once and then thrown out, they tend to cost more, are not environmentally friendly, and increase waste.

Environmental Impacts

Most companies that use cleanroom products do not consider the environmental impacts. It entails more than just solid wastes being dumped in a landfill. The materials used to make disposables can be broken down into two basic components: fabrics and contaminates. Fabrics are inert and will biodegrade over time without any impact to the environment. Contaminates, on the other hand, are those materials that biodegrade and, in the process, release CO2 (carbon dioxide) and CH4 (methane) from chemical reactions. Reusable garments are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is the same plastic used to manufacturer plastic drinking bottles. PET is fully recyclable and able to be reused numerous times, with minimal impacts to the environment.

Lifecycle Comparison

The lifecycle of reusable and disposable garments includes several different factors, such as the cost for the garments, the company’s CO2 footprint, energy use, and solid waste. Disposables go through the following stages during their lifecycle:

  • Manufacturing
  • Cleanroom Use
  • End of Life

Reusables go through the following stages during their lifecycle:

  • Manufacturing
  • Cleanroom Use
  • Laundry Transport
  • End of Life

With reusables, after each cleanroom use, they are transported to a laundry facility where they are washed and, if needed, sterilized, before being returned to the company to be used again. The cycle continues until the end of life of the garment.

20 reusables are able to be reused 50 times on average, compared to using 1,000 disposables. The costs for purchasing the reusables and paying a laundry service to wash them is much less than the cost paid for the disposables. In addition, the total amount of energy and resources used over the entire lifecycle in megajoules (MJ) for reusables is about 8,380 MJ, compared to 10,900 to 19,200 for disposables, depending upon the materials used to make the disposables.

Businesses which choose a disposable cleanroom garment solution incur the following (per 520,000 units):

  • 30-129% increase in natural resource usage
  • 52-143% increase in energy use (throughout lifecycle)
  • 38-135% increase in the business’s CO2 footprint
  • 17 times more solid waste contribution in landfills
  • 4 times more water usage (throughout lifecycle)

Alternatively, using 10,400 units of reusables helps save approximately 3.5 million MJ of energy, with a 210,000 kg reduction in CO2 emissions. In the end, using reusables is better for the environment, saves companies money, and reduces overall waste. For more information on reusable cleanroom products for your employees, contact Prudential Overall Supply at 800-767-5536 today.

Source: Overcash, Michael, Eric Vozzola, and Evan Griffing. “Implications of Reusable Versus Disposable Garments – Environmental Dimensions of Cleanroom Coveralls.” 8 October 2015. PDF File.