Study reveals 58% savings when operators choose reusable garments

Researchers from the American Reusable Textile Association have reviewed life cycle data on reusable and disposable cleanroom garments

The American Reusable Textile Association (ARTA) is pleased to announce the completion of a study on the environmental and economic impacts of using reusable and disposable cleanroom garments. The ARTA-supported study was conducted by Environmental Clarity and based, in part, on a previous life cycle analysis on cleanroom coveralls published in the PDA Journal.

In cleanroom facilities, both disposable and reusable textile garments meet the particulate standards from most rigorous to the most basic levels. However, the reusables offer two additional benefits, lower cost and reduced environmental impact. The environmental and economic benefits when cleanrooms select reusable textile garments are now clearly defined in detail (based on estimates from detailed life cycle data on reusable and disposable products) and can be used by both suppliers and customers to add to their own environmental sustainability scorecards.

Environmental and economic savings

The study found that when US cleanroom operations choose reusable coveralls over disposable ones:

  • More than 141 million megajoules (MJ) non-renewable energy (nre) (38 million kWh) is saved each year. Over a decade, 1.4 billion MJ nre is saved.
    • Annually, this environmental savings is equivalent to offsetting the carbon emissions from 1,650 cars annually, substituting for the diet impact of 4,100 persons, or displacing 89,000 iPads (design life).
  • Costs are reduced by 58% over disposables and provide an economic savings estimated at $120 million each year, which is $1.2 billion over a decade.
    • The financial savings of a full-market use of reusables would be about $210 million/year (nearly $2.1 billion in a decade). In order to capture the full benefit of reusables for a future market, 87.5% reusables was analysed (12.5% are mandatory disposables).

These new US data quantify and reinforce the economic and environmental benefits of cleanroom decisions for selecting reusables. This information can be used by policy makers, sustainability program directors, purchasing organisations, and others.

From this study, the reusable cost savings did not appear to depend on the size of the cleanroom operation nor the region of the country located. These benefits are directly accrued to the cleanroom organisations in their financial reporting and increasingly to their sustainability scorecards. In addition, the manufacturers and the laundry organisations can share the sustainability credits with all their customers. The study concludes that providing this information can help cleanroom firms' decision-making and guide a path toward greater cost savings and environmental improvements.

Notes from the study

The environmental analysis was from cradle-to-end-of-life (CTEOL) for each disposable cleanroom package.

Reusables analysis covered the CTEOL of the small number of new cleanroom packages that are then laundered 80 cycles or 40 cycles for laundered/sterilised.

The current reusable cleanroom market (14.1 million packages) was assessed to be 60% nonsterile and 40% sterilised and the total market is 50% reusable and 50% disposable.

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