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J&J MedTech collaborates in world-first initiative to repurpose medical devices

Health Industry Hub | February 2, 2024 |

ESG: In a collaboration that is believed to be a world-first, J&J MedTech and the Southern Cross Healthcare group in New Zealand have joined forces to repurpose single-use plastic devices, setting a new standard for environmental responsibility in the healthcare industry.

The Southern Cross Healthcare team, committed to minimising their environmental impact, has successfully launched an innovative initiative at Southern Cross Christchurch Hospital. Under the banner of the “recEYEcle” project, the ophthalmology team has implemented a pioneering recycling program for Johnson & Johnson Tecnis Simplicity intraocular lens loaders in cataract surgery.

Environmental sustainability is a strategic focus for the medtech sector due to increasing pressures and interest from stakeholders including surgeons, hospitals and policy makers. Australia’s first National Health and Climate Strategy, launched in 2023, also aims to establish green procurement guidelines.

recEYEcle allows previously disposable plastic devices, which come into contact with patients’ eyes during medical procedures, to be recycled in a specially designed and supplied box within ophthalmic surgical suites.

Instead of contributing to medical landfills, the Tecnis loaders are now subjected to sterilisation, allowing the different plastic components to be shredded and repurposed for sustainable applications. The recycled materials are utilised to create environmentally-friendly products such as decking, bench seating, and even watering cans, demonstrating a commitment to circular economy principles.

David Simpson, Chief of Strategy and Partnerships at Southern Cross Healthcare, expressed enthusiasm for the project, highlighting the broader environmental impact of healthcare activities. He stated, “The work we do to support human health can sometimes have a negative impact on the environment, through waste, packaging, and the production of greenhouse gases, for example. And the impact isn’t only felt in hospitals or GP surgeries, but everywhere in our environment.

“While the use of face masks to reduce the spread of airborne viruses like COVID is absolutely proven, all of us have seen multiple masks discarded in streets, parks and drains taking stormwater to our oceans, even as we move beyond the height of the pandemic.”

Mr Simpson emphasised the importance of extending the healthcare sector’s focus on patient and team safety to include environmental responsibility. He remarked, “Caring for and restoring health to Papatūānuku is about more than making sure we dispose of waste thoughtfully and reducing emissions.”

Acknowledging the broader challenges, Mr Simpson stressed the necessity for sustainable change and the collective responsibility of every team member. He added, “Our hospital sustainability committees contribute to a nationwide team focused on a range of initiatives to reduce our footprint, with some good results already achieved. We’re pleased with the work we’ve done but there is more to come.”

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