The challenge of combining safety criteria and circularity
KU Leuven wants to start a circular procurement process for lab coats for students.
Currently, students who require a lab coat for their course buy it from the course service, student association, or a local bookstore, so there’s no central point of sale for new or second-hand lab coats. At the moment, the university doesn’t impose any quality or safety requirements on lab coats that can be used during lessons.
Talks were held with the current supplier of lab coats for personnel. In order to meet the demands of KU Leuven, the supplier had to initiate an innovation process. In return, they wanted a sales commitment which isn’t within the university’s means, so a good solution is still being sought.
Discussions with student associations to set up second-hand recycling are ongoing. A contract was concluded with a company that processes the textiles from unwanted staff lab coats and work clothing into insulation material.
Initially, KU Leuven went in search of a safe, circular product that could be distributed centrally. To guarantee a long lifespan, it’s important that these lab coats are high quality and resistant to frequent washing. KU Leuven also wants to set up a central sales circuit for second-hand coats, so they can be used for as long as possible.