As human beings, our ability to recognise the perils of a particular path, and to innovate new and improved ways of living our lives in order to ensure that we do not fall prey to those same risks, is one of the things that has enabled us to create life as we know it today. From primitive beginnings, we have grown and developed over millennia – a fact which is testament to our adaptability and creativity.
One such example of our ability to overcome setback is in the fight to reverse the damage our modern ways of living have wrought on the environment. From air pollution to landfill, millions of people across the globe have recognised the issue, and undergone considerable change in order to mitigate the issue to the best of their abilities.
And, in the fight to reverse the damage caused over the last few decades, plenty of light has been shed on practices and products that hold no place in a clean and sustainable future. To a significant extent, the term ‘single-use’ stands among those practices – plastic packaging, straws, disposable bottles and coffee cup lids, for instance, are all burdens on an already-laden environment.
There are, however, some instances where a single-use product remains preferable to one that is designed to be reused indefinitely. Read more below about how, when it comes to implementing reusable alternatives, we should remain selective in our approach.
Single-Use and the Medical World
Of course, one of the most obvious benefits to single-use products is the ability to ensure stringent measures for hygiene. In the medical world, for instance, there are plenty of instruments and devices which, if used more than once, would represent a significant drain on a hospital’s resources, or risk posing a high risk of infection to all but the first patient.
One example of this is the surgical retractor – a device utilised within the operating room to hold back the edges of an incision and ensure a clear field of vision for those operating. In addition to being far more cost-effective, the lightweight nature of medical-grade plastic ensures maximum efficacy for surgeons – thus making procedures safer and faster, and minimising the need for additional bodies within the OR.
Across the medical field, plastic is, in many ways, superior to those materials which lend themselves to re-use. While there are plenty of instances where re-use offers a cheap, safe, and cost-effective alternative to now-defunct products, very few areas of medicine will thrive under a more environmentally-conscious directive.
Another example lies in dentistry, where ensuring sterilisation is essential. Some implements can be reused, but others offer far more use to dentists when they utilise the flexibility and lightweight features of plastic. Medical grade plastic does not, however, lend itself to sterilisation, which means that it must be discarded and sent to landfill at the end of each procedure.
To be sure, there are very few areas of medicine that do not make use of plastic. It is cheap, malleable and lightweight – factors which ensure a safer and easier experience for all involved. Single-use is something that can and should be avoided in many areas of life, but it is not something that should be considered an offensive term through and through.
The sustainability movement is only viable if it is, in and of itself, sustainable. Any future which can be deemed an improvement on the present will enable the safe and affordable treatment of millions of patients across the globe each year, which means that a sustainable future is unlikely to be free of single-use products.