Disposable Versus Reusable PPE Kits: How To Choose?

September 26, 2020

Several companies have to take a decision when it comes to personal protective equipment for protecting their workers from various hazards and contaminants. This decision is based on choosing reusable versus disposable PPE kits. In some cases it’s not a choice between them as in some situations, both are the most effective solution. There are several criteria to consider for a company to decide what sort of PPE kits are going to be used in order to make an informed decision.

Protection Criteria to Choose Reusable versus Disposable PPE Kits

The most important thing to consider is the degree of protection that is offered by the two types of PPE kits. In the healthcare industry, an example of a medical setting will be: coveralls and gowns are used for protecting healthcare workers from the viral load and body fluids for preventing themselves from infectious diseases. Disposable PPE kits for the medical industry are made of non-woven material and are intended for single usage while the reusable kits are made of woven fabrics and are meant to last through multiple usages. In both these cases, the fabric material is reinforced with a membrane or film that helps in providing a barrier to body fluids. Adequate body protection is presented when the garments meet standards established by such organizations as DRDO and ICMR in India.

Most disposable coveralls and gowns are made from a spun-lace, polyester blend of fiber or a spun-bonded, seam sealing polyethylene. Both these types have a polyethylene film laminated beneath the non-woven fabric in specific critical areas. With disposable types of PPE kits, convenience is easier as after usage, these kits are disposed of as biohazardous waste, whereas the reusable PPE kits have to be carefully maintained and laundered while being treated as a risk of biohazard. Good reusable PPE kits and coveralls, used in medical or clinical settings, have a densely woven fabric with a thread count of at least 270 / 280 or very tightly-woven 100% polyester fabric. These can often stand up to 75 washings and sterilization cycles before detectable deterioration, followed by proper disposal.

Cost Criteria for Choosing Reusable versus Disposable PPE Garments

Another very important consideration in the choice between reusable and disposable PPE kits is the financial cost of the two types of products and it should be of no surprise that reusable PPE kits are more costly than disposable ones. Thus, one needs to calculate the financial costs for the initial purchase of both reusable and disposable PPE kits. But this is not where cost consideration ends, but this is just the beginning as reusable PPE kits need to be decontaminated and laundered for using and these carry extra costs.

Any reusable PPE kit that has been exposed to certain hazardous contaminants must go through a critical decontamination process even before being removed from the body, in a decontamination chamber. Followed by optimized decontamination procedure, reusable PPE kit also have to be properly laundered for cleaning and maintaining the protective capacity of the clothing. These additional costs are further enhanced with the requirement of sterilization process that reusable PPE kits have to go through in the medical setting or other “clean room” environments. 

In very few cases, a repair is an option when a reusable garment shows signs of failure and that has cost associated with the process but mostly reusable PPE kit are not preferred for repair and use. Therefore, a detailed assessment and comparison of these costs behind the decision of reusable versus disposable PPE kit should be kept in mind before deciding their usage.

Additional Hidden Costs of Reusable PPE kits

Other than these direct costs associated with reusable PPE kit, it is also important to consider some hidden costs that are based on environmental impact, disposal techniques, etc. In case of one-time disposable PPE kits, there will be an additional cost for preventing potential pollution due to the amount of material going into the waste-stream or incineration chamber. Although the disposal scenario occurs for reusable ones too when their disposal time comes up, with reusable PPE kit, there are other ecological impacts associated with laundering techniques. The need for energy consumption for washing machines and sterilization equipment, as well as overutilization of water and laundering chemicals further contribute to pollution risks. 

Thus, what seems like a very simple decision of reusable versus disposable PPE kit is actually a complex process involving cost and environmental impacts. In case your company or clinic is looking for the best personal protective equipment and thinking of consulting an expert on the decision of procuring Reusable versus Disposable PPE kits, visit https://advancellsgroup.com/ppe-kit.php and contact ppe@advancells.com for your PPE queries.