Exploratory study of the state of environmentally conscious design in the medical device industry

Moultrie, James and Sutcliffe, Laura and Maier, Anja (2015) Exploratory study of the state of environmentally conscious design in the medical device industry. Journal of Cleaner Production, 108 (Part A). pp. 363-376. ISSN 0959-6526 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.06.014)

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This exploratory study seeks to explore the current state of design for the environment (DfE) in the development of medical devices; an historically risk averse industry that lags behind others in terms of addressing environmental considerations. A cross-sectional survey of 34 medical device designers, primarily in the UK and USA, was conducted in order to fulfil this objective. Findings indicate that there is significant motivation to enhance DfE practice, but that there are multiple barriers to this. Major barriers identified are a perception of the high cost of DfE, the industry’s current reliance on a single-use business model for many current products and a lack of education about DfE topics on all sides. Designers felt that the most significant opportunities to implement DfE are in situations where they are able to exert direct control, mainly in the early stages of the design process. Issues noted include raw material choice and packaging decisions. The nature of single use business models is also critical, pointing towards the needs for a systemic rather than product focus. For this to be achieved, financial rewards must be evident to firms and the changing regulatory landscape might also make a more significant impact.