The CO2e of washing your Medicus scrub caps
Scrub caps are an essential part of the medical uniform for healthcare professionals, serving both functional and hygienic purposes. While these caps are necessary for maintaining cleanliness and minimising the risk of infection in healthcare settings, it's crucial to consider their environmental impact as well. In this blog post, we will focus on Medicus scrub caps and examine the carbon footprint associated with their weekly washing.
The Basics of Medicus Scrub Caps
Medicus scrub caps come in various styles and sizes, generally weighing around 30 grams for the largest sizes. These caps are made from materials like 100% cotton or Hemp, designed for comfort and durability.
The average healthcare worker may own multiple scrub caps to rotate through the week, allowing for regular washing without the need for daily laundering.
The Carbon Footprint of Washing
To understand the carbon footprint associated with washing these scrub caps, let's consider the following:
- Washing Machine: We assume the use of a 7KG washing machine.
- Energy Consumption: The average energy consumption for such a machine is 58 kWh per 100 washes.
- CO2 Emissions: In the UK, CO2 equivalent emissions due to UK electricity generation are 0.23314 kg CO2e per kWh. [Source]
Estimated CO2 Emissions per Wash
Given the average energy consumption and CO2 emissions, we can calculate the CO2e per wash as follows:
Let's do the calculation.
Efficiency in Washing
One of the advantages of owning multiple Medicus scrub caps is the ability to wash them in batches, thus reducing the frequency of wash cycles dedicated solely to scrub caps. Given that the largest sizes weigh around 30 grams, you could theoretically fit 233 scrub caps in a 7KG washing machine at one time.
The Big Picture: Environmental Impact Over Time
Let's consider a healthcare worker who washes a week's worth of scrub caps once a week. The annual carbon footprint for this individual would then be:
Calculating this gives us:
The annual carbon footprint for washing a week's worth of Medicus scrub caps once a week would be approximately .
Factoring for home washing.
Efficient washing plays a massive role in how sustainable the scrub caps are. Washing just 1 scrub cap on it’s own would be 0.135kg CO2e per wash per cap whereas filling a 7KG washing machine to max capacity would be 0.00058Kg CO2e per wash per cap. A half load would be 0.00115KG CO2e per wash per cap.
One study found a single layer SMS gown had an impact of 0.1426kg CO2e [Source] and which takes about 1.9m to make of fabric [Source] meaning you could get 7 disposable scrub caps out of that same material. Using the same data would mean 0.021KG CO2e per scrub cap.
Max Loads = 1.755kg CO2e (83.58 Disposables)
Half Loads = 3.51kg CO2e (167 Disposables)
Single Cap Wash = 7.02kg CO2e (334 Disposables)
Anything below single cap washing would make the surgical caps more sustainable then disposable scrub use based on our survey data of the average caps being 2 caps per working day.
Recommendations for Reducing Carbon Footprint
Batch Washing: Make the most of your washing machine's capacity by washing multiple scrub caps at once. This reduces the number of wash cycles needed solely for scrub caps, thus lowering your carbon footprint.
Energy-Efficient Machines: Consider using energy-efficient washing machines that consume less electricity.
Air Dry: Skip the dryer and air dry your scrub caps to save even more energy.
While Medicus scrub caps are an essential part of a healthcare professional's attire, it's crucial to consider their environmental impact. By optimising the way we wash these caps, we can maintain hygiene standards without significantly harming the planet. With small but meaningful changes, we can all contribute to a more sustainable future.
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