Can there be no plastic in the medical field?

An interview with Xianglan Shen working in hospital

Hospitals are one of the places where it’s toughest to go green. They use mountains of disposable plastic – but reusing medical items could be a health risk. 

Xinyi Bian asked one leading medical professional what is being done to reduce plastic waste.

Xianglan Shen, 51, the chief physician of the outpatient department of the People’s Hospital of Gaochun District, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, said,

“plastics must be used in the medical field, and no alternative methods have been found until now.”

From the past to the present, plastics have become more and more important in the medical field. Plastics have a variety of uses, not only improving the chance of successful operation during surgery, but also simplifying the operation to a certain extent. Because it can only be used once, it improves the safety of patients during surgery. And it is particularly cheap, making it affordable for most people. It can be said that without plastics in the medical field is impossible.

For hospitals, disposable plastic products are a very cost-effective product: they are cheap, durable,light weight, transparency, easy to discard,and each new plastic container or cover will provide a new sterile environment. 

For example, disposable injection bottles and syringes are very convenient for nurses and doctors because these plastic products can be discarded after being used, it will not cause a secondary infection if the used patient has a virus.

In addition to the most common syringes, test tube accessories used in surgery, dialysis materials, tubes for oxygen inhalation, and even bed pans are disposable plastic products used.

In the era when medical technology was underdeveloped, there were many cases of infection caused by dirty needles. Obviously, the emergence of disposable plastics has greatly reduced the infection rate.

Until now, most plastics are irreplaceable, because patients do not need to spend too much money on them, and it is easy to disinfect, and there are also special medical waste disposal stations for medical plastic waste.

In the medical field, patients of any age benefit from plastic. Children benefit from plastic hard hats that protect them from harm. As elderly people with a high incidence of heart disease and joint disease, plastic helps them provide painless movement and barrier-free joints. At the same time, for those who have difficulty on moving, plastic is often very light, so it is very convenient for them to use at home.

Xianglan Shen,said,

“Although most medical materials can’t use plastic products, hospitals are also doing their best to reduce the use of plastic.”

In order to advance the process of global plastic-free action, in most Chinese hospitals, pharmacies have started to use plastic bags for free or to distribute cartons free of charge, when patients go to the pharmacy to get medicine.

But in fact, it is very difficult for hospitals to promote the process of plastic-free, and it is not enough to rely on fewer plastic bags.

There is a great contradiction between using less plastic products and maintaining medical care. But as the times progress, these problems will be solved one day.

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