Can hospitals function without using so much plastic?

At the Optimist Daily, we have highlighted time and time again how plastic is harmful to the environment. We’ve also reported on the bans being brought across the world on single-use plastics and how companies are mobilizing their supply chain to reduce the use and production of plastic. 

One of the sectors we haven’t mentioned much is the medical sector and for good reasons. Ask yourself, can the medical sector really live without plastic? Plastic items are convenient for hospitals and medical workers – they are cheap, easy to sterilize and even easier to toss out. But, like it happens with all plastic items, overuse and improper waste procedures create huge amounts of waste that are not easy to reuse or recycle. 

For the time being it seems the medical sector will move slowly toward renewable items, but that does not mean that there aren’t plenty of ideas and organizations trying to revolutionize the sector with sustainable ideas. Organizations, such as Practice Greenhealth, conducted a survey which highlighted that many hospitals overuse plastic and could save thousands of dollars with simple cutbacks. 

Some tools can be effectively replaced by reusable counterparts. One of the most commonly discarded items is “blue wrap”, used to cover sterilized tools and which is discarded and replaced during every surgery. A solution some hospitals are implementing is replacing this blue wrap with reusable sterilized containers that can be cleaned just like any other instrument. 

Another common item is the sterilization pouch, which is used to protect instruments from germs after being sterilized. One solution, namely the EnviroPouch, is a tightly woven fabric pouch that can be reused to preserve items after being sterilized – eliminating tons of plastics bags per year while keeping medical instruments effectively safe.  

Some items may take quite some time to replace, as unsuitable alternatives could easily become biohazards. With that said, it still doesn’t mean hospitals will give up finding new ways to reduce plastic waste.

 

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