Sr Arcelita Sarñillo

A hospital administrator, coordinates sustainability efforts at St. Paul’s Hospital in Iloilo in the Philippines

Fighting COVID-19 in the Philippines by prioritizing both people and the environment

The large amounts of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) waste became one of the most defining and distressing images of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A surge in the utilization of face masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment, including single use packaged products, such as plastic bottles and takeout containers had overwhelmed with waste local Filipino communities and to a significant extent health care facilities.

Foreseeing a steep increase in waste generation, hospital administrator Sister Arcelita Sarñillo showed leadership at St. Paul’s Hospital in Iloilo (SPHI) by asking its Linen Department to conduct research and develop reusable PPE to adequately protect frontline workers without creating significant amounts of waste.


Proper doffingo of the reusable PPE as demonstrated by a SPHI staff.

2021 ©, SPHI

“Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals can reduce waste by switching to reusable and sustainable PPE, not to mention other means of disinfection like sodium hypochlorite,” said Sister Sarñillo.

Rather than use incinerators to burn PPE, the hospital introduced procedures, such as waste segregation and the use of autoclaves to disinfect infectious waste and to reduce its environmental footprint.

From the very beginning of our Covid response, it was clear to us that as front-liners we did not need to choose between the health of human beings and the environment. We can always prioritize both.

– Sr Arcelita Sarñillo, Hospital Administrator,
St. Paul’s Hospital in Iloilo, the Philippines


As a result of the project, St. Paul’s Hospital in Iloilo has successfully protected their front line health workers without having to create significant waste in the process.

Furthermore, the use of washable PPEs to protect the health of their staff and the planet resulted in savings of 64,150,000.00 Philippine Pesos ($1.3 million) over eight months.

Sister Sarñillo added that “the replacement of disposable PPEs with washable ones has been beneficial to the hospital not only for reducing medical waste, but also to save money for the hospital budget”. These savings now allow us to redirect funds to other health services, including to our pandemic response.”

$1,3 million saved

by using washable rather than disposable Personal Protective Equipment between April and December 2020