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The Environmental Footprint of the Dutch Healthcare Sector: Beyond Climate Impact
11 Pages Posted: 18 May 2022More...
Background: Recent studies suggest the Dutch healthcare sector is responsible for 6-8% of the national carbon footprint, but its environmental footprint along impact categories other than climate change are not well understood. In this study, we expand it from climate change to material extraction, blue water consumption, land use and waste generation.
Methods: The primary method we use for calculating environmental footprints is environmentally extended input-output analysis and the primary data sources are Exiobase v3 and Statistics Netherlands. The top-down data is complemented with bottom-up information on emissions from pressurized metered dose inhalers and anaesthetic gases. We use life-cycle assessment with Ecoinvent v3.7 to further estimate the environmental footprints from private travel by employees, patients and visitors.
Findings: The healthcare sector’s share of the national footprint is higher for material extraction (13%) and lower for waste generation (4%) than for the carbon footprint (8%). Pharmaceuticals and other chemical products are the biggest contributors to all footprints, but the impacts underlying this product category occur in different sectors and regions.
Interpretation: This work shows that a broader set of environmental impact categories beyond climate change provides a deeper understanding of the healthcare footprint and can be useful to measure win-wins or trade-offs in sustainability strategies. The study also discusses the challenges associated with including impacts categories beyond climate change and integrating bottom-up data in a top-down analysis.
Funding: The study was part of a research project, commissioned by the ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) sustainable health care program, Netherlands
Declaration of Interest: None to declare.
Ethical Approval: The RIVM performs ethical reviews for studies with animal testing, studies that process personal information and/or studies that includes working with volunteers. This study is thereby exempted from ethical approval: we have used publicly available data and information from published articles, and only present the results on the sectoral level, meaning no data can be traced back to an individual (organization).
Keywords: environmental footprint, carbon footprint, healthcare footprint, input-output analysis, LCA, Dutch health care, material extraction, climate change, biodiversity, circular economy, blue water consumption, land use, waste generation, greenhouse gas
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