At MNEXT, there are various opportunities for students to intern, graduate, and conduct research. Teachers, researchers, and interns work together on diverse projects in the field of materials and energy transition. One such Future Rethinker, Hoang Cau Nguyen, is conducting research under MNEXT’s guidance on the environmental impact and reduction of textile waste at Amphia Hospital in Breda.

Publication date
25 June 2024

Before starting this research, Hoang Cau, a Technical Business Administration student at Avans University of Applied Sciences, took the minor in Biobased Technology & Business Development. Here, his interest in sustainability was sparked. He says, “During this minor, I found the topic of sustainability really interesting because there is still so much to explore and innovate. During the minor, we were allowed to assist in the ‘Building on Mycelium’ project of MNEXT, for which we created interior designs from mycelium. That was incredibly fun.” This inspired him to focus his graduation project on sustainability. So, he asked Jappe de Best, the coordinator of the minor and lecturer in Biobased Resources & Energy, for tips. This led Hoang Cau to MNEXT and Amphia Hospital.

Breeding Ground for Future Rethinkers

His graduation period isn’t over yet, but so far, Hoang Cau is enjoying it: “I really like it, especially that at MNEXT we have a large group of interns who have a lot of contact with each other. There are 7 research groups here, so there is a lot of different knowledge around. Everyone works on a different project, and I enjoy knowing what other interns are doing in the field of sustainability. I also really appreciate the international team at MNEXT; it’s nice to meet other cultures and introduce them to Dutch culture. Recently, we went to Den Bosch with the interns to try a Bossche bol together.” Hoang Cau also has a tip for future MNEXT interns: “Whatever it is, just ask. Especially in the beginning. What I really like about MNEXT is that there is so much knowledge here that you will always find the right person.”

Operations at Amphia Hospital

Hoang Cau spends three days a week at MNEXT, but on Mondays and Thursdays, he is a short 10-minute walk away at Amphia Hospital. Here, he is amazed: “Recently, I got a tour of the Operating Room. I attended an open-heart surgery. It was bizarre in a positive way to experience how normal everyone there dealt with it. It was different for me, but it was very special to witness. I also saw how much waste is generated; drapes, cellulose mats, disposable washcloths. You see how much hospitals consume. That really opened my eyes.” A key goal for Amphia Hospital is to reduce their waste by 25% by 2026 compared to 2019. Hoang Cau’s research provides insights and solutions for a project aimed at achieving this goal. His focus on waste reduction contributes to the reduction of environmental impact, including CO₂ emissions.

Focus on textile waste

Hoang Cau is supervised at Amphia Hospital by Anoek van Dooremaal, Coordinator of Sustainability and Environment, and at MNEXT by Alexander Compeer, researcher in Biobased Resources & Energy. After discussions with his supervisors, it was decided that it would be good to focus on textile waste during this research. “Anoek told me that Amphia has already looked into plastic and plastic paper, but there is no improvement plan for textile waste yet.” Amphia Hospital uses many textile substitutes; non-woven textiles made from plastic. Previously, products like surgical drapes were made of reusable cotton, but now they are made from disposable materials. Amphia’s question for Hoang Cau is: what are the possibilities within textile (substitute) products to reduce the amount of waste, CO₂ emissions, and thus the environmental impact? Hoang Cau conducted an analysis focusing on a small portion (20%) of the textile products that are responsible for a large part (80%) of the impact of all textile products. The products that together form more than 80% of the impact at Amphia Hospital are: surgical drapes, disposable washcloths, cellulose mats, thermal blankets, and disinfectant wipes. “It starts with awareness; how quickly do you throw something away? I think that’s the first step towards improvement, then you can look at reusable alternatives. I see sustainable alternatives for all five items. Therefore, I would advise comparing the reusable alternatives with the disposable items in terms of environmental impact, for example, through life cycle analysis (LCA). Additionally, reducing the size of the items is a good option for sustainability.”

Plans for the future

We asked Hoang Cau about his future plans: “I find the circular model very interesting. For example, Urban Mining, which means you don’t see waste from a company as waste, but as raw materials.” After completing his graduation internship, Hoang Cau wants to expand his knowledge by studying Information Management. “Without data, you can’t make decisions. So, I hope that through information management, I can help companies in the field of sustainability. Or look at the best strategy to transform your data so that it is manageable and you can make decisions more easily.” MNEXT is curious about what the future holds for this Future Rethinker!

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