This doesn’t seem to be a big deal to most. With the current situation hospitals are facing, patient care is the priority. And for many in the medical profession, it feels like a choice between caring for patients, trying to save their lives, and protecting the environment. It’s hard to manage both. In hospitals, the number of patients is at capacity. For each visit to each patient, each member of staff is going through pairs of gloves, aprons, masks, etc., many items of PPE, all used to keep the patients safe and stop the spread of infection. But think of how much medical waste this is then producing each and every day.
But is it always necessary to destroy or discard items after singular use? Obviously, when dealing with infectious individuals, yes, it must not be used again and will be classed as hazardous. But that only accounts for a small amount of medical waste. A lot of items, for example, packaging materials or even food containers, aren’t hazardous. So why are they also being thrown away after single use? It seems to be the mindset of people today that this is the safer option. It is easy to understand people’s concern with the threat of infectious disease hanging over everyone. But this isn’t the way things were viewed in the past. An effective and more environmentally friendly route was taken – things were cleaned, sterilised and then ready to be reused again for another patient. The patients were protected and so was the environment. There was no either / or choice.
Another problem to consider is the cost. True, single-use items are cheaper to use than those designed for longer term use. But over time, the additional cost of long-lasting materials and equipment eventually turns into a saving. So it’s a win, win, win, right? The issue of medical waste has become much more obvious since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and researchers think now is the time to get this issue addressed. Medical care can’t be a choice because then the environment is going to lose. But think about that. If the environment loses, does the patient really win? Dangers to the environment will only create more disease and illnesses that will then cause more sickness, pandemics and death in the future. Maybe modern isn’t always better and the old ways of good old-fashioned cleaning, sterilising and reusing were safer after all.