Support initiative “CirculAid”

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Circular economy in the health care sector

In order to achieve climate-neutral and resource-saving healthcare, the DBU launched the funding initiative “CirculAid – Circular Economy in Healthcare”. It is primarily open to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and research institutions and is aimed at manufacturers of chemical-pharmaceutical products and medical technology equipment, service providers and consultancies in the healthcare sector, hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, retirement and nursing homes and doctors’ practices, as well as universities and training centers in the medical field. The application deadline for the initiative has expired, but new project outlines on the topic can be submitted via the general DBU project funding.

High resource consumption in the healthcare sector

Health is a great good, but the consumption of resources in the German healthcare system must be described as unhealthy: in 2016, the healthcare sector consumed 107 million tons of raw materials – that is 1.3 tons per inhabitant*. Since 1995, resource consumption has increased by around 80 percent and now accounts for five percent of Germany’s total consumption of raw materials. The healthcare sector (inpatient and outpatient) is thus responsible for a significant share of Germany’s raw materials balance.

At the same time, the healthcare sector produces significant and increasing amounts of waste. Hospitals are the fifth-largest waste producer in Germany, generating 4.8 million tons of waste per year, according to 2014 surveys. Large amounts of waste are also generated in other healthcare facilities such as rehabilitation clinics, nursing homes and doctors’ offices. Disposable products of all kinds have often displaced multiple use and circular economy in healthcare today, and the avoidance and recovery of recyclables is not the norm.

The current framework conditions make it difficult to use resources more sparingly in the healthcare system. Incentives for resource conservation are lacking, as are clear responsibilities, guidelines, standards and strategies, practical examples, or product-specific information that would enable decisions for greater sustainability.

DBU funding initiative for climate-neutral and resource-saving healthcare.

With its initiative for the economy and society of the future #DBUcirconomy, the DBU supports an expanded circular economy that takes the entire product life cycle into account and offers an alternative to the linear “take – make – waste” concept of value creation that has also become established in the healthcare industry.

The funding initiative “CirculAid – Circular Economy in Healthcare” is part of the DBU funding priority #DBUcirconomy.

In order to achieve climate-neutral and resource-saving healthcare, the DBU currently sees a high demand for innovative, exemplary lighthouse projects that have been implemented in practice on a selective basis and serve as a “proof of concept” to demonstrate concrete approaches to solutions for the responsible and economical use of resources. This is why the DBU launched the funding initiative “CirculAid – Circular Economy in Healthcare” as part of #DBUcirconomy.

The aim of DBU funding is to reduce the consumption of resources in the healthcare sector. The sectors primarily addressed are chemical-pharmaceutical products, medical technology articles and devices, and textiles and personal protective equipment. Suitable project approaches include, above all, product and process optimization, waste and resource management, evaluation concepts, the establishment of platforms and networks, and education and qualification measures aimed at increasing resource efficiency in the healthcare sector.

In particular, innovative, model projects on the following key topics are eligible for funding:

If you have any questions about the funding initiative, please get in touch with us, see contact details below.

You can also read more about this topic in our press release.


Dr. Melanie Kröger
DBU: Umweltforschung: Zirkuläre Wirtschaft und Bioökonomie
+49 541 9633-322
Dr. Volker Berding
DBU: Umweltforschung: Ressourcenmanagement
+49 541 9633-310
Dr. Hans-Christian Schaefer
DBU: Umweltforschung: Promotionsstipendienprogramm
Zirkuläre Wirtschaft und Bioökonomie
+49 541 9633-350
Franz-Peter Heidenreich
DBU: Umwelttechnik: Wasser, Boden, Infrastruktur
+49 541 9633-230
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