Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why Aren't Diabetic Supplies Designed Cradle To Cradle?

Today in our sustainability and entrepreneurship course we are speaking with the CEO of Method, a company that produces house hold cleaning products that are healthy for the environment and designed to either be recycled or 100% biodegradable. As I changed my infusion site this morning, with the Method case fresh in my mind I once again became frustrated over how much waste is created through the simple act of refilling my insulin.

When I change my insulin reservoir I am throwing out:

1. 2' long plastic tube
2. 1.8 ml plastic canister
3. 2" long metal needle
4. 3" wide adhesive tape
5. Whatever insulin is left over in the reservoir
6. Plastic packaging from the new infusion site
7. Plastic wrap from new reservoir
8. Plastic cap from reservoir
9. Aluminum wrapper for IV Prep
10. IV Prep Cloth

In addition each box of infusion sets has a ton of documentation and instructions; the same documentation in each box!

That process above is repeated 3 times a week, 52 weeks a year, for the rest of my life. Not to mention the hard plastic containers One Touch uses to house their test strips, or the waste that each test strip creates. That's a ton of non-recyclable waste; there has to be a better way!

One of the things we're learning about is how to design a product for cradle to cradle. Cradle to cradle means that the life cycle of the product is continuous, it is either 100% bio-degradable or the non bio-degradable portions can be recycled and incorporated into a future product - essentially carbon neutral. This design process ensures no additional harm to the environment and actually can create significant cost savings to the manufacturer. Cost savings can be found throughout the supply chain or in something like shipping costs from lighter or less packaging.

I haven't yet fully identified all the potential ways to improve how to redesign all insulin pump supplies or testing supplies. However, packaging test strips in bulk with a plastic canister that can be reused would be a great start and create a huge cost savings for the supplier. A trade in program for Medtronic could be a second innovation; the plastics Medtronic uses can be recycled which would reduce their supply costs and decrease the amount of waste through our necessary activities. There are some simple changes that can be made, that would decrease the price to consumers, increase the profitability of corporations and most importantly be better for the environment.


Anonymous said...

It is amazing how much waste I create. It gets worse when I need a new bottle of insulin. Box cap instructions ect. Sometimes I change the battery as well.

jpnairn said...

I totally agree. An issue you didn't touch on is the designed-in waste.
Infusion sites go bad or get pulled out, which has no effect on the tubing.
Everyone knows this. Yet Medtronic packages tubing and infusion sets together. You can't just open a new infusion set.
So you either toss (or somehow recycle) good, unused tubing, or you end up with piles of tubing no longer in sterile containers.

Max @ENSO said...

I really appreciate your comments. I’m encouraged by your comments and the fact that people seem to be developing awareness for sustainability. I believe that every product, every package, everything that is made or used should be designed to be “Cradle to Cradle.”
Becoming cradle to cradle with all our products isn’t going to happen overnight but as consumers demand environmentally friendlier products and packaging, manufacturers will take notice and start taking responsibility for their products and packaging. If that happens we are going to see more resources conserved, less pollution and a healthier environment.
I believe that large corporations are more comfortable with status quo and it will be smaller, innovative companies that will lead the way with producer product responsibility. There isn’t any magic bullet that will solve all our problems but pollution can be solved. We’re trying to do our part through the introduction of our biodegradable plastic bottle. The ENSO biodegradable plastic bottle is designed to biodegrade leaving behind biogases and humus. Biogases are being used to produce clean energy.