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How will India benefit from recycling of health care equipment?

By Vivek Tiwari

India’s medical devices sector has emerged as one of the fastest growing sectors in the country. Its market size was estimated to be US$11 billion in 2020 with 1.5% global market share. After Japan, China and Korea, India is Asia’s fourth largest medical device manufacturer, producing more than 6,000 types of devices. This market is poised to grow to US$50 billion by 2025.

While this is an extraordinary achievement for the country, it is extremely important to think about the environmental impact at this time due to the waste generated and costs associated with medical equipment. There are three types of health care waste: infectious waste that can harm people’s health, hazardous waste that includes surgery equipment and needles, and radioactive waste produced by cancer treatment and the machines that use it. Of the total health care waste generated, 85% consists of non-hazardous waste that can be treated and reused. However, they continue to fill landfills, increasing the environmental crisis. Additionally, purchasing new materials increases expenses that may be financially unsustainable for small health care establishments. In this situation, recycling can reduce the excessive use of natural resources that have been depleted over the years and provide a cost-effective option for many health care establishments.

Benefits of Recycling Medical Devices

Access and affordability: Many hospitals in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and villages are still facing shortage of essential equipment. As the burden of chronic diseases increases, patients are forced to travel to better-equipped facilities in cities, costing them time and money. Recycling medical equipment can ensure that hospitals in resource-limited settings have the equipment to provide life-saving treatments. This way patients can access appropriate facilities. Additionally, recycling can enable hospitals that lack capital to purchase advanced equipment. This could help bridge health care disparities across the country.

Reducing environmental impact and improving sustainability: There are an estimated 69,000 hospitals in the country that generate huge amounts of waste, which is harmful to the environment due to the greenhouse emissions they generate. Improper disposal may lead to outbreak of infectious diseases. On the other hand, recycling durable medical devices reduces the amount of waste dumped in landfills and helps reduce the carbon footprint. Since hospitals pay for the disposal of medical waste, reusing equipment can reduce associated costs.


There are several challenges that prevent recycled devices from becoming an integral part of the Indian healthcare ecosystem.

lack of awareness: There is little awareness about the benefits of reusing equipment, especially plastics. The healthcare sector uses a large number of single-use plastics but awareness about their recyclability is negligible. Many people consider used medical equipment to be of low quality and choose to avoid it altogether.

regulatory issues: The Hazardous and Other Waste (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules are responsible for monitoring the import of used critical care medical devices for re-use. Although some of them are banned for reuse, there is no specific definition or criteria for refurbishing medical devices in the country.

Logistical Constraints: Safety, storage and transportation hinder the process of effective integration of recycling medical devices. Lack of resources increases these problems.

Recycling medical devices is not only beneficial for the environment but also for the economy. Technology can play a major role in streamlining and streamlining the recycling process by providing an end-to-end platform for lifecycle management of medical devices. These platforms can provide solutions such as maintenance, part replacement, repair, reconditioning and restoration for old components. Technology-based solutions can reduce the burden of usable old equipment being dumped unnecessarily and bridge the gap between demand and supply. This could help equip hospitals in the most remote areas with the life-saving equipment needed to provide specialized care.

The future lies in sustainable health care management. To accelerate the concept, private and government health care institutions and various stakeholders need to create a collaborative framework that encourages recycling for a greener future.

The author is Founder and CEO, Medicabazaar.

(Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and views expressed by various authors and forum participants on this website are personal and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and views of ABP Network Pvt. Ltd.)

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