Life Cycle Analysis on Isolation Gowns Gives Advantage to Reusables

Staff Writer |

Reusable isolation gowns good for environment, efficiency, study confirms

MISSION, Kan. — Life cycle analysis (LCA) research finds that reusable isolation gowns provide a significant improvement in energy, environmental footprint, water and energy-associated emissions, according to the American Reusable Textile Association (ARTA).

In addition, reusable gowns offer a 95% reduction in waste stream.

The life cycle research was conducted on behalf of the textile services industry by Environmental Clarity LLC and compared the life cycle of reusable versus disposable isolation gowns.

“The results of the isolation gown LCA support the conclusions from six other reusable/disposable studies that showed reusables provide a significant improvement in energy, environmental footprint, water and energy-associated emissions,” says Michael Overcash, Ph.D., of Environmental Clarity.

ARTA says disposable and reusable isolation gowns were studied from their inception as raw materials in the earth to manufacture of the coverall product, to use/reuse, then to final end-of-life disposition. The scope and the results emphasize transparent, science-based life cycle analysis. An abstract on the study is available.

The study found that choosing reusable isolation gowns instead of disposable alternatives decreases the environmental footprint by:

  • 28% lower natural resource energy consumption.
  • 30% lower greenhouse gas emissions (measured as CO2 eq emissions).
  • 41% lower total water consumed (blue water, which is water that is used and not returned to the source, representing depletion of a fresh water source).
  • 93-99% lower solid waste generation at healthcare facility: End users can count these improvements as a credit toward improving their sustainability programs.

In this study, an isolation gown was defined as a single-piece, size extra-large (XL) or one-size-fits-most, long-sleeve, tie-up garment. The functional unit, or basis of comparison, was 1,000 isolation gown uses in a healthcare setting. For the reusable gowns, this was 16.7 new gowns each used for 60 cycles, while for the disposable gowns this was 1,000 new gowns.

Two market representative ANSI/AAAMI Level 1 isolation gowns were investigated: a reusable polyester gown and a disposable nonwoven gown. The representative reusable gown weighed 240 g (8.5 oz.) and was composed primarily of woven polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fabric. The representative disposable gown weighed 63 g (2.2 oz.) and was composed primarily of nonwoven spunbond-meltblown-spunbond (SMS) polypropylene fabric.

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