Vepa makes chairs from surgery waste

pBack in February, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a gigantic mountain of medical waste caused by the corona pandemic. The waste threatens human health and the environment. The UN alone sent an additional 87,000 tons of medical protective clothing around the world between March 2020 and November 2021 to support countries in the fight against the virus.

In addition, there were 140 million corona tests, which caused 2,600 tons of plastic waste and 731,000 liters of chemical waste, as well as eight billion vaccine doses, of which a good 144,000 tons of syringes, needles and packaging materials were left over at the end.

But that is only a part of what has happened in all – only what the UN had sent. Even before Corona, 30 percent of all hospitals and clinics were unable to dispose of medical waste safely and in an environmentally friendly way – especially in rather underdeveloped regions.

Getting out of control

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences had previously calculated that by August 2021, around 8.4 million tons more plastic waste would have accumulated in 193 countries, i.e. in addition to the 300 million tons that, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), are produced by humanity every year anyway . The team led by researchers Yiming Peng and Peipei Wu estimates that a large part of the corona waste (around 87.4 percent) originates from hospitals, especially in Asian countries.

Fibrous material: Surgical instruments are also kept sterile in Bluewrap.


Fibrous material: Surgical instruments are also kept sterile in Bluewrap.
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Image: photo producer

7.6 percent is due to masks and other personal protective equipment, according to the study published in November 2021. Barely five percent was due to packaging for the booming online trade. The researchers are particularly concerned about the high demand for single-use plastics.

The pandemic has only increased the pressure on this already out-of-control problem. Therefore, the WHO calls for more emphasis to be placed on sustainability, for example through reusable plastics in protective equipment or biodegradable packaging. The Dutch company Vepa has now for the first time brought a chair to the market that is made of sterile packaging, in which, for example, surgical instruments are welded.

The material, called Bluewrap, consists of polypropylene. Vepa has teamed up with six local project partners to recycle the fibrous material, according to Vepa director Janwillem de Kam. According to him, the use of Bluewrap in the manufacture of the Blue Finn chair can save 35 percent CO2 compared to using a new plastic.

Vepa collaborates, among other things, with Bywyd, an expert in the production of recycled raw materials. Together they have succeeded in transforming Bluewrap into a high-quality material suitable for furniture, says Bywyd director Jan Willem Slijkoord. He calls Bluewrap a perfect raw material for chairs.

The Blue Finn collection consists of stackable multifunctional chairs and bar stools in two different heights, each with a seat shell made from at least 85 percent surgical packaging material. The wear frame made of steel tubes is particularly light, armrests made of wood or plastic are optional.

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