Clemson University in South Carolina has developed a certificate program on medical device recycling and reprocessing.
This is an interesting, and perhaps rather brave step since the product liability issues of medical device reprocessing have frightened off many potential users. However, many high quality devices can be reprocessed and reused, though this can require substantial effort in re-validation that any cost advantage is lost.
In recent years, the explosion of the single use device market has left some red faces. Single use, when reprocessed and reused, invites the lawyers to ask if this is really safe. Prove it? And prove it again if the device is reprocessed twice, or more. And of course many informal and in-house reprocessing activities simply cannot provide that necessary re-validation.
The next step was partly altruistic, to ship used single-use items to under-resourced or ‘developing’ countries since they had nothing. But the ethicists as “Is that right, to offer these devices for use by the poor and disadvantaged, if they are provided without the validation and safety certification that we would expect at home. And then that stopped too!
There are many possibilities for device recycling and reprocessing, and for those items that do not have a second, or third, life there is no need to consider these as waste since the material resources can also be recovered. This may necessitate source segregation and separate disposal, or post-processing separation using one of the many separation techniques that are now common in the recycling sector but which have not found their way to clinical waste processing activity.
Much more developmental work is required, but before that happens those with experience in the field – rather, in these many different fields – need to consult with the designers and manufacturers, to move toward more uniform materials selection and less complex manufacture that support separation and more profitable and advantageous materials recovery on disposal. Though there are many agencies quick to stand up and say no, or at least to put barriers in the way of progress toward recycling, reprocessing and materials recover, regrettably that forum, to work collaboratively toward improvement in device re-use and cost-effective materials recovery does not yet exist.