In the 1967 classic movie “The Graduate,” a well-meaning friend of the family offered recent graduate Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman) the following career advice.
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
At the time this was great advice. The fossil fuels used to make plastics were inexpensive and could be molded or extruded into a wide variety of light weight, durable goods.
Fast forward to today, college graduates in the class of 2019 are still considering careers related to plastic but now the focus is on mitigating the accumulated waste created by plastic. And not a moment too soon. These products take hundreds of years to degrade and have begun permeating into every part of our lives including drinking water and the food supply. In fact, according to a recent CNN article, microplastics have become so prevalent in the environment that we each ingest approximately 5 grams of plastic, the equivalent of one credit card, each week and this Scientific American article discusses the toll microplastics may be taking on our food supply and well-being.
The pendulum of public opinion is now starting to swing in the opposite direction as individuals and businesses, including those in the health care industry, look for ways to reduce plastic waste. On average, American hospitals produce 5.9 million tons of waste per year with plastic accounting for 15% of that total.
SPD departments can play a key role in reducing the amount of plastic waste generated by hospitals by switching from single use plastic containers and polypropylene wrap to durable reusable metal containers. According to a University of Minnesota Medical Center fact sheet, plastic sterilization wrap (or blue wrap) makes up as much as 20 percent of the surgical services waste stream and 5 percent of the total waste stream in some medium to large hospitals.
Switching to durable metal containers, especially anodized aluminum containers, not only immediately eliminates a significant source of plastic, but metal containers also help promote better patient safety. Aluminum dries faster--and more thoroughly--than plastic, which can retain moisture and lead to the growth of microorganisms.
Table 1 ranks materials based on their thermal conductivity which is a key factor in drying times.
As indicated in yellow, aluminum and steel rank high on the list, while polyurethane (plastic) ranks near the bottom.
Case Medical’s durable, aircraft grade anodized aluminum and passivated stainless steel SteriTite containers are just one example of how we can help you create less plastic waste. Our EPA Safer Choice awarded chemistries are sold in a highly concentrated formulation to provide you with more product with less packaging. We have also taken corporate measures to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles, cups and plates at our headquarters.
We invite you to join us in these and other measures for reducing the amount of plastic waste and microplastics in our environment.