Week 3 : PPE

Frances Balmer
Frances Balmer • 28 July 2023

Week 3 and we're focusing on PPE. PPE can be life-saving when used correctly, but used unnecessary use carries a huge environmental and financial cost. 

Two actions on the GreenED framework address this - see

Framework actions


The carbon footprint of PPE is huge. A recent LCA showed the footprint (in CO2e) for each of the following items to be:

IIR face mask = 20g

glove = 26g

apron = 65g

face shield = 231g

[Data from this paper :]


This paper also suggests the environmental impact of PPE "could be reduced through domestic manufacture, rationalising glove use, using reusables where possible and optimising waste management". This fits nicely with the waste hierachy ladder


Comments (6)

Frances Balmer
Frances Balmer

So looking at reducing unnecessary use first. Hand washing is often as effective as wearing gloves AND avoids plastic waste

Recommendations from NHSEngland and WHO are that gloves are needed when
- exposure to blood/body fluids, nonintact skin or mucous membranes anticipated
- infection risk
- handling certain Px

This NHSEngland eLearning package explains the evidence on glove use and hand hygeine with lots of useful resources:

NHS England also provide useful posters.

Frances Balmer
Frances Balmer

If we can't reduce, the next best option is reuse. Reusable face masks are an option and offer:

- more comfort
- IIR protection
- reduce plastic waste
- cost-effective

Reusable face masks have been trialled by Revolution Zero in the ED at Royal Devon and Exeter Hsopital to establish logistical pathways and stakeholder engagement.

We will report back on the outcomes soon

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