Medical Plastics News focuses on plastics within the medical sector. However, the characteristics and processes associated with these plastics are equally as applicable within other areas where the material is used.
The recycling of plastics within the medical field is a topic that has been widely discussed of late, as recycling rates are relatively low when compared with other sectors.
A paper previously published in the British Medical Journal stated that less than 10% of total National Health Service (NHS) waste was recycled. Additionally, it was reported by the Press Association that the NHS used more than half a billion disposable cups across five years. These cups are mainly used for hot and cold drinks within hospitals, as well as dispensing medication. England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies has previously called on the NHS to cut its pollutant footprint. Following the announcement of these figures, some hospitals have made pledges to reduce the use of disposable plastic cups.
We as a society tend to follow government initiatives and live up to the expected social standards through recycling plastics at home and at work. There is no real reason why plastics used within the medical field should be treated any differently. Within a controlled, professional environment it seems odd to me that recycling rates here wouldn’t be higher than the rates achieved by the general public. Perhaps the NHS and similar organisations should implement processes that require its employees to recycle more within the workplace.
In contrast to the above, scope exists for other sectors to learn from the use of plastics within the medical field. At the recent Met Gala in New York, several celebrities wore garments that were created through a collaboration between designer Zac Posen and manufacturers Protolabs and GE Additive. Together, they had created garments for celebrities using 3D printing. The outfits they were able to design were glamorous and appropriate wear for the Met Gala, where looking fashionable is a necessity.
The media coverage following these outfits is sure to bring attention to 3D printing. Hopefully, this will then stimulate interest in the technology amongst those who have not heard about it previously. As demonstrated by Posen, others within their own area of expertise may find a novel use for plastics and 3D printing, that is not currently in place in their field.
We are making huge advances with the use of plastics and technology within the medical field. However, I strongly believe that there are still lessons to be learned from other sectors. I don’t believe that avoiding plastics where possible is the way forward. Plastics and their characteristics offer huge benefits to the medical sector; therefore, strides must be taken to ensure that the material is utilised in the most efficient and sustainable way.