The Environmental Impact and Sustainability of Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty

Arthroplast Today. 2023 Nov 7:24:101254. doi: 10.1016/j.artd.2023.101254. eCollection 2023 Dec.


Background: Operating room waste is disposed of in landfill sites, recycled, or undergoes costly, energy-intensive incineration processes. By assessing the quantity and recyclability of waste in primary hip (THA) and knee arthroplasty (TKA), we aim to identify strategies to improve sustainability.

Methods: A prospective waste audit of 15 primary THA and 16 primary TKA cases was conducted at a tertiary orthopedic hospital between April and July 2022. Waste was categorized into nonhazardous, hazardous, recycling, sharps, and linens. Each category was weighed. Items disposed as nonhazardous waste were cataloged for a sample of 10 TKA and 10 THA cases. Recyclability of items was determined using packaging.

Results: Average total waste generated for THA and TKA was 14.46 kg and 17.16 kg, respectively. TKA generated significantly greater waste (P < .05). Of all waste, 5.4% was recycled in TKA and just 2.9% in THA cases. The mean amount of recycled waste was significantly greater in TKA cases than that in THA cases, 0.93 kg and 0.42 kg, respectively.Hazardous waste made up the largest proportion for both TKA (69.2%) and THA (73.4%). Nonhazardous waste made up 15.1% and 11.3% of total waste for TKA and THA, respectively. In the nonhazardous waste, only 2 items (scrub-brush packaging and towel packaging) were recyclable.

Conclusions: We estimate hip and knee arthroplasty generates over 2.7 million kg of waste in the United Kingdom annually. Currently, only a small percentage of waste is recycled in hip and knee arthroplasty, which could improve through increased use of recyclable plastics and clear labeling of items as recyclable by medical suppliers.

Keywords: Arthroplasty; Recycling; Sustainability.