Irish start-up HaPPE Earth has created a sustainable alternative to PPE- to reduce healthcare carbon emissions

News | Posted on: 8 February, 2023
Read the Irish Examiner article on how Cork entrepeneurs developed a compostable PPE apron to reduce plastic waste

Cork entrepreneurs develop compostable PPE apron to reduce plastic usage

Lisa O’Riordan, Co-founder HaPPE Earth, Johnny Brackett HCA, Niamh Allen, HIHI Clinical Liaison and HSE Clinical Nurse Manager, Dr Mary O’Riordan, Co-founder HaPPE Earth, Lily Matthews, Clinical Nurse Manager 1 Picture: Jim McCarthy

Two Cork entrepreneurs have developed a compostable PPE apron which disintegrates in just five weeks compared to traditional PPE gear which takes up to 50 years to degrade.

Cousins Dr Mary O’Riordan and Lisa O’Riordan developed the compostable apron in response to a doubling of the amount of plastic pollution generated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The apron, which is suitable for use in healthcare settings, was developed under their start-up HaPPE Earth and has been piloted at Cork’s South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital.

Dr O’Riordan has worked in clinical medical practice for 18 years, the last eight of those involved with Public Health Medicine, specialising in Emergency Response for Highly Emerging, Infectious Threats.

“As a result of Covid, it became very important to me and my co-founders that we take immediate steps to tackle the single-use plastic increase due to PPE usage, and so HaPPE Earth was born,” she said.

Compared to the standard LDPE apron, which is used across healthcare and takes about 50 years to degrade, the HaPPE apron degrades in just five weeks while offering the same level of protection to healthcare professionals and patients.

The apron reduces the carbon footprint of a standard apron by more than 75% through the use of local transport and manufacturing. Made of compostable resin, it also ensures no waste in the manufacturing process while the manufacturing plant itself uses sustainable energy for production.

It was one of 11 winners of the Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI) Open Call 2022 and as a result, the HIHI conducted a pilot assessment of the apron in the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital in Cork.


The HaPPE Aprons were tested for wearability, acceptability, sustainability and durability across two wards as well as the hospital catering and kitchen services. The co-founders of HaPPE Earth said it was “invaluable” to see the apron used by staff in a hospital.

“It is through collaboration like this that we bring practical solutions to our health system. We want to make an impact on sustainability within healthcare — the HIHI programme is extremely well organised and supportive, we were delighted to be part of it,” they said.

HIHI Director Dr Tanya Mulcahy said it is important to look at innovative products that reduce carbon emissions while maintaining safety to make an impact. She said the apron has been proven to be safe and equivalent to current PPE and hopes to see it used across the entire healthcare system.

Read about HaPPe Earth’s sustainable alternative to PPE featured in today’s Irish Examiner