Single-use or reusable parturition set? An environmental comparison for UMC Utrecht

A parturition set is a collection of medical instruments used in childbirth: a pair of scissors to sever the umbilical cord, three clamps to stem its blood-flow and operating scissors, used in 20% of births to widen the vaginal opening. There are two types of set available: single-use and reusable. Utrecht University Medical Centre (UMC Utrecht) asked CE Delft to compare the environmental footprint of the two variants so they can make more informed decisions in procuring parturition sets and similar instrument sets.

This study calculates the environmental impact of the two types of parturition set using a simplified form of life cycle assessment (LCA), a standardised method for quantifying the life-cycle environmental footprint of products or processes.

We conclude that a reusable partition set is better in terms of climate impact (CO2-eq.) and impact on human health (DALY) over the entire life cycle. The single-use variant has a greater climate impact because of the greater number of sets that need to be produced. The Central Sterilisation Unit required for processing reusable sets has less impact than producing, transporting and processing a new single-use set. Only if a reusable partition set is used fewer than three times does the single-use variant perform better in terms of both climate impact and human health impact. However, the reusable sets currently circulating at UMC are used for 500 births on average.