Many of these medical elements currently use single use plastics or have some sort of sustainability challenge. Without doubt, the immediate focus should (and is) on meeting the impending need. Indeed, many innovative approaches are being used during this emergency in the very short term.
At the same time over the medium to longer term, many other companies are working on alternatives to plastics that could offer options to replace single-use plastics for medical purposes. Indeed, if the strict social distancing and stay at home measures introduced yesterday are successful, there will be a lot of surplus equipment after ‘Peak COVID-19,’ and a flattened curve.
Much of the discarded medical waste in the US is sterilized and taken to landfills in a regulated manner (incineration has been discouraged since 1997). However, other countries may not have as advanced bio-hazard waste protocols. This could potentially lead to a secondary environmental crisis with billions of small items of hazardous single use plastics ending up in waterways and oceans around the world.
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