What can the medical device industry do to achieve the goal of "double carbon"?
The "carbon peak" and "carbon neutral" targets proposed on September 22, 2020 have aroused positive responses from all over the country. Greenhouse gases emitted by humans mainly come from fossil energy consumption (such as industrial manufacturing and transportation). Although the medical device industry is not an institution with high carbon emissions, it should also bear corresponding responsibilities. What can we do specifically? Let's have a look.
Carbon peaking and carbon neutralization
With the emission of greenhouse gases, the global temperature is gradually rising, which brings serious climate problems such as sea level rise and extreme weather, affecting the global economy and natural environment. The concept of carbon peaking and carbon neutralization came into being. Carbon peaking refers to that the carbon dioxide emission reaches the peak, no longer increases, and gradually falls back. Carbon neutralization refers to offsetting the carbon dioxide emissions generated in a certain period of time through afforestation, industrial carbon fixation and other ways to achieve "zero emissions" of carbon dioxide.
At the general debate of the 75th United Nations General Assembly, China proposed that "carbon dioxide emissions should reach the peak by 2030 and strive to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060". Once the "double carbon" goal was proposed, the government not only issued policies to respond positively, but also announced their respective carbon peak and carbon neutral plans and roadmap in petroleum, chemical, coal, steel, power, automobile, environmental protection, transportation and other industries. Although the medical device industry is not an institution with high carbon emission intensity, it can still contribute to the achievement of emission reduction goals.
Medical health system and medical device industry
On May 6, 2021, UN Secretary General Guterres said that all countries should promise to achieve zero emissions by 2050 if they want to avoid the catastrophic consequences of global temperature rise of 2.4 ℃ at the end of this century. According to the data released by WHO, in some developed countries, the carbon emissions from medical and health systems account for about 5% - 15% of the national carbon emissions. Although the current proportion of carbon emissions in the medical and health system is small, with the development of social economy and the aggravation of the aging population, if measures are not taken in time, the proportion of carbon emissions in this field will increase significantly.
Carbon emission distribution of China's medical sector in 2014.
A study found that 84% of the greenhouse gas emissions of medical institutions come from the purchase of drugs, medical equipment, other products and services, while the greenhouse gas emissions of building energy use activities such as lighting, heating, refrigeration and medical machinery operation and non outsourcing transportation are relatively small (16%). The report published by "Health Care Without Harm" in 2021 gives three ways to reduce emissions in the global medical system: decarbonizing infrastructure and service operations, decarbonizing the supply chain of the medical sector, and decarbonizing the economic and social environment.
Specific suggestions for decarburization and emission reduction measures in the supply chain of the medical sector:
With reference to the circular business model, formulate sustainable procurement policies and methods (only purchase new energy power, energy-saving medical instruments, energy-saving air-conditioning systems, energy-saving communication systems).
Help upstream enterprises understand the energy conservation and emission reduction goals and measures of the medical sector, and make corresponding adjustments.
Reduce the carbon emissions of procurement, transportation and staff travel, especially reduce flight travel to once a year.
Build an independent power generation system and power storage equipment to increase the resilience of the hospital against irresistible disasters.
Use the influence of the medical sector to promote the impact of carbon reduction on other high energy industries (including construction industry, pharmaceutical industry, etc.).
Reduce the use of disposable packaging and plastics.
Increase the purchase of local food raw materials, reduce the distance from the farm to the dining table and the transportation displacement.
Increase the environmental protection requirements for pharmaceutical enterprises, especially the recovery and treatment of drug waste.
Increase the use of AI in the pharmaceutical industry to improve efficiency.
The vast majority of medical carbon emissions come from its supply chain, including the emissions generated by the production, packaging and transportation of products used by the medical sector. Therefore, only if relevant medical manufacturers and suppliers take timely action to reduce emissions can they gain advantages in the supply chain decarbonization of the medical sector.
In the past, China's high-end medical device market was mainly occupied by imported products. In order to reverse this situation, the state gave strong support to encourage innovative research and development of medical devices. This is an opportunity for the medical device industry. However, as an energy consumption manufacturing industry, in addition to using new energy and energy-saving work systems, it should also keep thinking and creating on how to make equipment and production links lower carbon.
The customs shall inspect the imported medical instruments.
In the design of medical devices, breakthroughs should be made in the direction of new energy, less power consumption and longer service life, and carbon emissions can also be calculated. In addition, under the condition of meeting the operation requirements, the disposable products can be replaced by reusable medical products. Some scholars calculated the total carbon emissions in the whole life cycle of a disposable ureteroscope and a reusable ureteroscope. The results showed that the total carbon emissions were comparable, but the latter could be reused many times to avoid generating a large amount of medical waste and carbon emissions.
On the packaging of medical devices, we should consider how to simplify the packaging, reduce costs, reduce waste and ensure standardization. The main function of medical device packaging is to provide protection during the supply and sterilization process, and ultimately ensure that the device is sterile before use. However, the packaging of medical devices is one of the sources of carbon emissions. Medical device enterprises can use composite packaging or composite packaging technology to reduce carbon emissions in this regard. An article published in Nursing Time pointed out that the combined packaging of medical devices would reduce the packaging waste by 90% (2.6 tons per year) compared with independent packaging.
Disposable sterile urethral catheterization bag in combination packaging.
The production of medical devices will cause relevant waste, wastewater or exhaust emissions. Enterprises need to treat or recycle these wastes; The waste gas and waste water from medical device disinfection shall be treated to reduce the carbon emission.
As mentioned above, the medical device industry still has broad development space, but this development should be positive, conform to the national requirements for energy conservation and emission reduction, and move towards achieving the "double carbon target". While seizing opportunities, enterprises should also bear corresponding social responsibilities, taking into account human health, technological innovation, environmental protection and economic development.
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