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The Environmental Costs of Being Sick
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The Environmental Costs of Being Sick

As we have all become more conscious of avoiding illness over the past couple years, we also need to consider other types of waste. To avoid PPE pollution, we are trying to figure out how to properly dispose of cloth masks and recycle disposable masks. We are concerned that the oceans will be polluted by all the little plastic bottles of hand sanitizer and that cloth masks may expose us to toxins. It’s enough to make you want your chance against infection. But even if there’s an environmental cost to staying well, its important to keep it in perspective. Let’s look at the environmental costs of getting sick.

Disposable PE

Do you feel guilty about using disposables masks to prevent infection in your daily life? Just think how many disposable masks and gloves are needed for a single doctor’s visit. It’s not. EstimateA single intensive care hospital worker may use 10 simple masks per days and change gloves with each patient encounter. This equates to a total of 334 individual gloves daily. A healthcare worker might use 50 gloves and at minimum two simple masks daily in an outpatient setting. In normal years, hospitals use approximately N95 Masks – 5,000 to 6,600In a pandemic, it is 10 times more.

Hospital Waste

There’s more to hospital waste than just PPE. Hospital waste includes everything from disposable straws to trays of food waste, bland meals, and even half-eaten meals. Think about how much waste is generated by one injection. First, the single-use swab is used to sterilize the injection site. The medication will come in small, sterile containers. Sterile medical packagingThis makes it less efficient and requires extra packaging layers, most of which are made of non-recyclable plastic. The sharps container should be strong enough to hold the needle. Medical Sharps wasteA special medical waste management company must handle it. When it’s full, the container must be sterilized before being sent to a landfill or incinerator. Both the metal needles and the plastic container cannot be recycled.

One hospital case studyIt was 739 times larger than the actual facility. The environmental impact of health care facilities can be as high as 25 pounds of wasteEach patient produces approximately 7,000 tons of waste each day.

Hospitals also consume a lot of energy. They need intensive versions the same systems as homes. These include brighter lighting in operating room, increased air exchange, filtration, and decreased temperature variation in HVAC system. All medical equipment, from heart rate monitors and X-ray machines, draw electricity. An Average U.S. hospital31 kWh of electricity and 103600 Btu natural gas per square feet annually are the average annual consumptions (comparable to About 5 kWhPer square foot per annum in an average 2,300-square-foot home.

Biohazards and Special Wastes

About 15% of hospital wasteRadioactive, toxic, infectious or toxic. Sharps (needles or razors), radioactive material (from diagnostics and treatment, including for cancer), and biohazards (items potentially contaminated by infectious matter) are all examples of medical waste. Each patient in a hospital generates a pound worth of biohazardous waste each day. Disposal of regulated medical refuse can be costly. 10 times more than disposingRecycling is 30 times more efficient than municipal solid waste.

Dangerous Waste

Proper disposalIt is not easy to dispose of regulated and other hazardous chemicals wastes, like cleaning products. Landfill disposals of untreated wastes increase the risk of contaminating water, surface, or groundwater. The use of chemical disinfectants, which can pose environmental risks, is required to treat medical waste. Incineration is a method that prevents the release medical wastes into our environment. However, it has its environmental disadvantages. Although it offers a promising solution to waste reduction, sterilization is still an energy-intensive and water-intensive process.

Even if you don’t need to go to hospital, it is expensive to get sick. When you have a cold, your handkerchiefs might get used up faster than you can wash them. Disposing of any medications that are not used is possible once you feel better.

Be well

There are many options. Hospitals will reduce waste. Nearly half the hospital waste is made of paper and cardboard that can be recycled. Hospitals can create recycling programs and protocols to ensure proper waste separation, just as they do for other businesses. They can install solar panels, and take energy efficiency steps such as insulation or lighting that automatically turns off in rooms not being used. There is nothing a patient can help support these actions. If your own health is not enough motivation, you can still be a good citizen for the planet.

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