Reusable Healthcare Textiles Discussed at HICPAC Meeting

Posted August 25, 2023 at 12:42 pm

TRSA participated in a recent meeting of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) to highlight the need for an increase in reusable healthcare contact textiles (HCTs) in healthcare facilities.

During the meeting, the HICPAC members discussed topics ranging from the latest COVID variant to draft barrier protection guidelines to updated HIV guidelines. During the open session, TRSA was able to present the argument to find ways to increase reusable textiles in healthcare facilities.

“COVID 19 and subsequent variants have revealed the United States’ overreliance on single-use healthcare textile substitutes,” said Kevin Schwalb, TRSA’s vice president of government relations.

Referencing the latest COVID strain, which is increasing in prevalence, Schwalb said that, “The virus’s latest dominant form makes clear that the virus continues to find ways to cause harm, and as mentioned earlier, is responsible for increasing hospitalizations. This should serve as a wake-up call for the country to require or incentivize healthcare facilities to maintain an adequate balance of both reusable and disposable healthcare textiles. Doing so would improve safety for healthcare workers and patients, strengthen our supply chain and mitigate impacts on the environment.”

Discussing the sustainability benefits of reusables, Schwalb mentioned that, “One reusable gown can replace 75 single-use disposable gowns. Life-cycle assessments prove that selecting reusables over disposable substitutes can lower carbon footprint 200 to 300 percent from energy reduction alone. Such substitution also shrinks water requirements by 250 to 330 percent. At the same time, disposables generate far more solid waste than reusables – 705 pounds per 1,000 gowns compared with 83 pounds, a 750 percent margin.”

Schwalb’s concluding remarks included the following: “HICPAC should take the opportunity to examine ways to encourage healthcare facilities to integrate more reusable healthcare textiles and make a recommendation to the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). In addition, we request that HICPAC recommend to CDC to undertake a study of the benefits of reusable HCTs when considering the issues of pandemic preparedness, environmental sustainability and long-term value.”

TRSA will continue to find ways to highlight the importance of reusable textiles in front of policymakers. For more information, contact Schwalb at