Reusable PPE: Saving lives, money and the environment — at scale

An unprecedented challenge

A Spring and Summer which have dramatically changed life around the world has yielded to the Fall. Here in America, just like countries the world over, the United States has found itself in a murky position where the government, educators, business owners and the public are all forced to make incredibly difficult decisions about health for themselves and those they represent, teach, serve and care for.

Many of the challenges COVID-19 brought into the light have been solved, normalized or alleviated. But, some are showing signs of resurgence.

Lack of a stable supply chain for PPE gowns is one of those challenges again finding it’s way back into the U.S. COVID-19 narrative. There is a solution to this problem, and it’s hard to a negative aspect to speak of. The solution is switching from disposable PPE to washable, reusable isolation gowns.

Pandemic, PPE and creative problem solving

In the Spring when COVID-19 overwhelmed hospitals in New York a panic for supplies quickly ensued. The need? Ventilators, N95 masks and isolation gowns. And, Americans answered that call, with long-established companies, quick pivots and entrepreneurs taking on the challenge of stabilizing a taxed supply chain required for the safety of over-worked, vulnerable healthcare workers and first responders.

Reusa was one of the companies that was created by this country-wide response. Born from entrepreneurs focused on sustainability, responsible manufacturing and reshoring, as we determined how we could best help we quickly arrived at manufacturing reusable isolation gowns. It was the perfect intersection of our capabilities, passions, and beliefs.

We knew the benefits of sustainable, reusable isolation gowns were great, but it turns out they were even greater than we had envisioned.


Sherry Barry, Reusa

Today we’re diligently manufacturing the gowns with the most demand for healthcare workers from across the spectrum. We knew the benefits of sustainable PPE were great, but it turns out they were even greater than we had thought.

Reusa alternatives to disposable PPE

  • Washable Reusable Level 2 Isolation Gown - White Stripe - Front
    Reusable Level 2 Isolation Gown (100 Wash)
    5.00 out of 5
  • Washable Reusable Level 3 Isolation Gown - White - Front
    Reusable Level 3 Isolation Gown (100 Wash)

Wasn’t the PPE shortage solved?

The PPE shortage was handled, not solved. In the moment, many rose to the challenge and kept healthcare providers working as best they could. This involved manufacturing new alternatives but also employed last-resort tactics including cleaning and reusing single-use PPE. As hospitals overwhelmed by the virus began to receive some well-deserved relief, the focus on the PPE shortage waned.

At the time of this writing, there is still a shortage of reliable, effective PPE.

In a recent article on Salon.com, Carmela Coyle, CEO of the California Hospital Association, stated that California hospitals “…have been challenged with shortages of isolation gowns [and] face shields, which you’re now starting to see in public places. Any one piece that’s in shortage or not available creates risk for patients and for health care workers.”

That Salon.com article from just one month ago is published under the title “PPE shortage could last years, experts warn.” Combing through local news confirms shortages are happening across the United States, not just in California.

Uniquely effective: Reusable PPE

American-made, reusable PPE is simply a better solution. Reusable isolation gowns perform at the same level of protection than their disposable counterparts. But, how does it contribute to saving lives? By reworking an outdated supply-chain.

American made, sustainable and Reusable PPE’s advantages

  • Speed to market addresses surges in PPE need. At the time of the pandemic, the American supply of disposable PPE largely came from Asia, namely China. While there were constraints due to China also reeling from COVID-19, the other large-scale impact that is often overlooked in how long it takes for a shipment to get from Asian shores to those in need across the Pacific. Reshored PPE eliminates the supply chain’s reliance on slow, trans-Pacific shipping. Faster delivery is a far better way of addressing unforeseen, urgent needs.
  • Trustworthy FDA and CDC compliance. One of the more unfortunate effect of any market with demand that is extremely larger than available supply is unscrupulous opportunists. Unfortunately, offshore-sourced PPE of all kinds was riddled with sub-par manufacturing practices and outright fraud that not only wasted time and money, it put healthcare providers at risk, too.
  • Reusable PPE is less expensive than disposable PPE. It’s not often that an ecologically-focused is also more cost effective than the non-sustainable version. But, it’s true in the case of sustainable, reusable isolation gowns like those Reusa manufactures. On a cost-per-use basis, our reusable isolation gowns easily beat the throw-away option.

But, there’s that one last benefit: sustainability.

Environmental impact of switching to sustainable PPE

While we were retooling operations, prototyping, coordinating with the FDA and manufacturing we missed a great study that was organized by The American Reusable Textile Association (ARTA) and The International Association for Healthcare Textile Management (IAHTM). We came across it recently and it’s an incredible commentary on the environmental impact of reusable PPE.

The study specifically focused on the impact that switching from disposable isolation gowns to reusable isolation gowns provides.

In a press release accompanying the release of the study this past May, ARTA stated that “disposable and reusable surgical gowns were studied from their inception as raw materials in the earth to manufacture of the coverall product, to use/reuse, then to final end-of-life disposition.”

The results are below and they’re quite impactful. Switching from disposable isolation gowns to reusables has the following environmental impact:

  • 64% reduction in natural resource energy consumption
  • 66% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • 87% reduction in total water consumed (blue water)
  • 83% reduction in solid waste generation at healthcare facility (which results in reduced landfill costs)

64%

reduction in natural resource
energy consumption

66%

reduction in greenhouse gas
emissions

87%

reduction in total water
consumed (blue water)

83%

reduction in solid waste generation
at healthcare facility

Those are incredibly compelling numbers. And, for hospitals, clinics and health care systems working toward sustainability goals, the improvements can count toward those goals.

Reusable PPE isn’t just for hospitals

If you’re a hospital, dentist office, private practice, veterinarian or healthcare provider of any kind seeking a better solution to disposable gowns, we challenge you to consider sustainable PPE. And, of course, we’d hope you would consider our sustainable, 100-use Level 2 Isolation Gowns and Level 3 Isolation Gowns made here in America.

One other important characteristic of Reusa reusable isolation gowns is that once they have served their life as a Level 2 or Level 3 gown they still have a usable purpose. In perpetuity, a Level 2 or Level 3 gown which has been reused to its stated wash potential can then be used as a Level 1 gown. In reading the study, this wasn’t included in their methodology, but it is worth note.

To learn more about the American Reusable Textile Association, visit their website online at arta1.com. The International Association for Healthcare Textile Management can be found online at iahtm.com. Reusa reusable PPE can be purchased online.

About Sherri Barry