Here’s an alarming piece of trivia:
The amount of plastic in the world today weighs more than all mammals alive. Meaning that there’s more plastic than every person, cow, elephant, whale, etc put together. And we’re making more every day.
Not only is there far too much plastic being dumped into the world but it’s finding its way into the worst places. In 2020, researchers showed that they were starting to find small particles of plastic in most human organs (lungs, spleen, liver, kidneys and placenta), not surprising since we eat and breathe in more than 50,000 particles of plastic every year. Two years later, plastic is now at detectable levels in the bloodstream of most people. These levels of plastic exposure are linked to diseases like diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer, and we’re a long ways off from learning the full extent of the effect on our health. Let’s just say: plastic is a problem we need to deal with sooner than later.
Plastics used in healthcare contributes around 1% of non-residential landfill waste, but don't let that 1% sound small, because it equals around 1.5 million tonnes every year. Medical waste is one of these things that I’m having to reckon with in my own practice, let alone my daily life. For patient safety I use sterile, single use supplies which just happen to require proper packaging - usually plastic. I may not be able to change the need for plastics, but I can control how I use it in my own clinic.
You can see above what a typical day looks like in terms of packaging, with my old vs new needles. I started using a new brand of needles in August, 2021 after looking at the incredible amount of packaging I was throwing away. Take that image and multiply it out; 5 times a week, 52 weeks a year - that’s 260 times!
Most brands of needles come in packaging made from treated paper and unknown plastics which means they aren’t recyclable; this brand is 100% PET - the same as soda bottles and polyester. Where the big pile went right into the garbage, the smaller pile can be recycled. Even better, the boxes it comes in aren’t just recyclable, they’re compostable - made from sugarcane. This means fewer steps (and less resources) to deal with the waste, I can put it right in the green bin or my own compost.
I’ve always sanitised with hydrogen peroxide - if it’s good enough for Island Health facilities, it’s good enough for me. Buying it in bulk to mix my own cleaner also reduces waste. I've also bought a machine for making my own hypochlorous acid, which means that all of my cleaning & disinfecting supplies are BC CDC approved as well as skin safe and odour free.
So what does this look like?
- A fraction of the medical waste, and all recyclable
- Down to 1 kitchen sized bag of garbage per month
- The office has a new POS system which only prints receipts on demand. It’s so successful that even after nine months, I’m still on the original roll!
- While I still have actual paperwork at the office I strongly encourage people to fill out all of the forms online to save both time and paper.
- All natural products but effective disinfection against a range of pathogens.
- Now I’m working from a home office which means I’m driving a lot less, a single tank lasts over a month.