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.