CostsDisposable textiles have long been touted as the most pocket-friendly method of textile supply. Without laundering costs to maintain reusable textiles, disposables are marketed as more cost effective. Add onto the argument the sterility of one-time-use textiles, and you have a strong case for disposables. However, the long-term costs of constantly purchasing new, disposable textiles adds up drastically. In surgery, for example, the average cost of disposable linen use per operation is around $41.97, including disposal and transportation costs. Reusable linens, by contrast, average $40.49 per operation, including laundering and transportation costs. It doesn’t take much math to put the facts together. That extra $1.48, multiplied by every surgery performed, amounts to a substantial number. In 2010, 51.4 million inpatient procedures were performed in the U.S.. If they’d all been done with disposable linens, they would have cost $76,072,000 dollars more than their reusable counterparts.
The Hidden Costs Of Disposable LinensThere are also some unforeseen variables with disposable linens that increase their costs. For example, because of their low-quality, multiple sheets must be used to create a thick barrier between patients and the surfaces they lay on. You have to use more sheets to get the job done and more time to set them up. Disposable garments are also more difficult to attach to patients, and securing them takes more time than it would with reusable linens.
EffectivenessThough disposable drapes and surgical gowns are here to stay thanks to their microbe-barring abilities, there are some substantial downsides to their uses. Disposable linens do not absorb liquids nearly as well as reusables. As a result, procedures that involve fluids coming into contact with linens aren’t absorbed and contained. Instead, they pool or trickle onto the floor, increasing clean-up time, costs, and sanitary concerns. Disposable linens also have a tendency to crack and tear, particularly if the materials aren’t high quality. They shed more particles than reusables as well, further increasing operational costs.
EnvironmentBy far, disposables outweigh reusable linens in terms of environmental damage. From manufacturing materials and requirements, washing, transport, and end-life, reusable linens vastly outperform disposable. A study performed by PE International and commissioned by the TRSA found the following:
- Reusable isolation gowns greatly outperformed disposables in environmental impact.
- Reusable wipes scored better than disposables in all but one category.
- Transportation is a negligible factor of environmental impact relative to the sourcing and production of textiles.