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The Problem of Plastic

the problem of plastic

It can be argued that plastic is one of the most useful materials ever invented. It’s incredibly versatile, inexpensive, lightweight and strong. In the healthcare sector, it has saved many lives. Disposable syringes prevent disease, dialysis tubing helps kidney patients and surgical gloves protect both patients and caregivers alike.

On the other hand, there’s probably no other material ever invented that has been so overused. If it’s not correctly disposed of, plastic can pollute the environment for centuries. Estimates say that so far over 8000 million metric tons have been produced. Of this, over half has ended up in landfills or in the environment. The overuse of this material has made a significant contribution to climate change.

In hospitals and elsewhere, packaging is one of the main uses of plastics. About 95% of packaging gets disposed of and most isn’t recycled.

Disposable diapers are another item containing plastic. They’re difficult to recycle and make up a sizable portion of hospital waste.

It’s doubtful that alternatives to disposable surgical gloves will be found anytime soon, but they pose a hazard as most contain PVC, latex and nitrile (synthetic rubber).

Plastic syringes are another essential disposable item used in huge quantities in all healthcare facilities. They’re easily recyclable, making them a potentially valuable recyclable waste stream.

IV infusion bags and urine bags also make up a large percentage of plastic waste in hospitals. Many are made of easily recyclable polyethylene.

As we can see from the few examples cited, there are items, that with a few changes to the system, could be recycled to reduce plastic waste in the environment.