Screen Shot 2021 08 28 at 1 46 09 PM

Adopting a Circular Economy in Healthcare

Medsalv

3. Good Health and Well-Being 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Medsalv offers an innovative approach to reducing waste from the New Zealand health sector. They collect single-use medical devices from hospitals after use, remanufacture them to their original condition and then sell them back to hospitals for reuse. There are many benefits to this innovation, but the direct impact is in the financial savings for District Health Boards. It saves tonnes of waste from going to landfills as well as boosts local employment.

Author

Kelly Baker

Kelly Baker

School

University of Otago

University of Otago

Professor

Joe Cooper

Joe Cooper

Innovation

Medsalv was founded in late 2017 by Oliver Hunt. Over the past four years, he has expanded the company nationwide and has a growing team of 15 employees. The company includes a research and development team, remanufacturing technicians, hospital service staff, and quality and operational management staff. All play a crucial part in generating a circular lifecycle.

The remanufacturing involves collecting used devices from hospitals, sorting, cleaning, testing and inspecting, packaging, and then delivering back to hospitals. This process runs through different product types, and Medsalv is constantly investing in research and development to improve their impact.

“We have doubled our product range over the period of 6 months” – Oliver Hunt

The companies dedication to sustainability means that not only their innovation but also their business practices help New Zealand work towards the following Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing: Intertwined with the financial savings Medsalv provides the Healthcare Sector.

Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy: Medsalv actively uses clean energy where possible they choose to use rail over air transport.

Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth: These come from the circularity Medsalv brings to the New Zealand economy, as well as local employment.

Goal 9 – Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: Medsalv has brought a new industry to New Zealand that previously didn’t exist, and their innovative technology allows them to remanufacture.

Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities: By remanufacturing products in New Zealand, Medsalv is preventing new products from being made. It projects a positive global impact on those cities where devices develop through direct reductions in carbon emissions.

Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production: Medsalv’s work is linked closely to this goal. By remanufacturing items, Medsalv ensures the Healthcare Sector is consuming sustainably and reducing the volume of products required for high-quality healthcare delivery.

Goal 13 – Climate action: The climate action comes from Medsalv’s overall goal of cutting down emissions, those associated with the initial manufacture of devices, and then transporting them to New Zealand.

Adopting a Circular Economy in Healthcare

Inspiration

In his free time, founder and CEO Oliver Hunt enjoys skiing, mountain biking, and surfing. All of which are heavily environmentally focused.

“I always wanted a job where I could be happy what I was doing at work didn’t take away from what I enjoy doing when I am not at work.” – Oliver Hunt

In his last year of university studying for a Master's in Engineering, he was looking for a project. His Uncle, a Surgeon, pointed him in the direction of the waste, which he was constantly seeing throughout his job in Healthcare. This direction led to the spark of inspiration for Medsalv.

“Medsalv was born out of a desire to eliminate the growing environmental and financial waste in New Zealand’s Healthcare Sector” – Medsalv website

The opportunity arose, and Hunt felt he had nothing to lose by starting a business out of the untapped industry in New Zealand. The research and process involved in building the company weren’t easy but certainly had rewarding outcomes. In 2019, after just over a year of operating, Medsalv won the Going Circular award at the Sustainable Business Network National Awards, the most popular entry category. Hunt says this was a critical moment for the company as it boosted awareness and ultimately meant they could have a more positive impact on the environment and society.

Overall impact

The company has had steady growth since its founding in 2017. Formerly starting work in just the Canterbury region, it has now grown its network across New Zealand. Forthcoming, they hope to supply all hospitals in New Zealand, which will increase their impact long term. Continuous research and development have meant that Medsalv has expanded its product range rapidly, and it will continue to grow.

The short-term and long-term impact of the company ascertains the social benefits they are bringing to the New Zealand economy and workforce. Medsalv’s positive environmental impact is very much a long-term payoff. Single-use products are hugely unsustainable to make and use. Hunt mentions that many devices Medsalv works with have a manufacturing ratio of 8 Kg of Co2 emitted for each 1 Kg of components. Every time Medsalv remanufactures a product, it reduces carbon emissions significantly by cutting out the mining, refining, and manufacturing stages. This projection sets to have an impact on global warming long into the future.

Business benefit

From the view of the health sector, there are two key benefits Medsalv provides. Firstly and potentially most important, the product that Medsalv provides them is cheaper than elsewhere. The health sector saves money when compared to purchasing new medical devices. This saving can then be redistributed and invested in better patient care. Secondly, Medsalv improves supply chain resilience in New Zealand Health. Rather than the 97% of imports currently being brought in from overseas supplying hospitals (MTANZ, 2021), Medsalv keeps the products in the country through the remanufacturing process. Having direct access to these products within the country is a tremendous benefit to a small distant country, especially in times of a pandemic halting or other delays in global trade routes.

The innovation has allowed the company to experience significant revenue growth since its founding. Founder Oliver Hunt notes Medsalv is profitable; however, they do not disclose financial details.

The vision of Medsalv is to “make healthcare more sustainable.” Recently, they clocked over $200,000 in savings with one of their first customers. It is an enormous feat for the company and the industry, but it is just one of the many milestones Medsalv has achieved. In the future, they wish to be the best and safest remanufacturer of single-use devices on the planet.

Social and environmental benefit

Social

Medsalv being a New Zealand-based company provides for the New Zealand healthcare system. They are allowing people to grow into a technically able workforce that previously did not exist here. Ultimately the New Zealand economy benefits from a local company being a key component in the supply chain, more than it does from importing products from global multinationals.

The way they approach their employment is very considered. They give thought to what each role requires and deliberately seek employment to people from under-employed communities, including adults with intellectual disabilities or people who have been dealt a tough hand in life. Unemployment within the disabled community in New Zealand is consistently high, with only 42.5% currently working (Statistics NZ, 2021). With that in mind, Medsalv’s social impact cannot go unnoticed. Hunt notes that this is a hiring process they are actively continuing to do as they expand and grow their team.

Environmental

The crux of the business operations for Medsalv is to remanufacture otherwise single-use medical devices instead of sending them to landfills. Every time Medsalv remanufactures a product and delivers it back to hospitals, this plays a crucial role in protecting the environment. It has a positive impact on the environment. This impact happens at both ends of the product's life cycle. Medsalv is reducing the requirement for a new product from scratch, which reduces the carbon emissions generated in the production process. It also decreases the total waste produced in the health sector by taking the waste products thrown into the landfills. As well as the above, they are also making conscious decisions to reduce their emissions as they move products. Hunt notes that where possible in the transportation stage, they prefer to use rail over air transport. These are some of the highlights, the way Medsalv does business that points to them putting sustainability at the heart of every decision they make.

Interview

Oliver Hunt, Founder and CEO

Keep this story going! Share below!

Medsalv

Medsalv

Christchurch, Canterbury, NZ

Business Website: https://www.medsalv.com/

Year Founded: 2017

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

Medsalv is a sustainability-driven company with a strong focus on waste reduction in the health sector. The crux of their innovation is creating a circular economy within the health sector by remanufacturing used ‘single-use’ devices back to their original condition and giving them a new life. Despite this, they have an acute awareness that sustainability is not just about the environment. In all aspects of their company, they strive to be the best possible. This mindset has meant they achieve several of the Sustainable Development Goals.