Mother Earth hates diabetes, too

Art Supplies, by Flickr user courtney.benefiel, also author of blog.Used under Creative Commons license

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. We’ve heard that one before. Unfortunately, when it comes to Type 1 diabetes, that old adage doesn’t apply. But this one does:

“An ounce of insulin is worth a pound of trash.”

Sara Sklaroff, Editor-at-Large of Diabetes Forecast magazine (who always writes entertaining articles) discusses just that in the magazine’s February issue. She writes:

“as committed as I am to recycling (and reusing, and repairing), I still amass a big pile of junk each month that is destined for the landfill. Diabetes junk, that is. Living with diabetes—particularly if you are injecting insulin—means generating a lot of waste that cannot go into the recycling bin. And I feel guilty about it.”

Sara’s right. There are lots of pieces of trash that come along with diabetes. Some of it is actually used before being discarded, and other stuff is just packing material or other junk. But how much trash ARE we generating? Let’s take a look:

Every month, I go through a bottle of Novolog. The cardboard box and the inserted leaflet end up into my recycling bin. The vial ends up in the trash. The insulin (most of it, anyway) ends up in me.

The only important part is in the bottle

But in order to get there, the Novolog has to go through this reservoir, tubing, and infusion set.

That little plastic clip is useless

But in order to get to that, I first need to rip open this.

Add this to the trash heap

I use ten of them a month, and everything to see above goes right to the landfill, via my trash can (the sharp stuff makes a detour to an empty plastic iced tea jug first). But back to these supplies. They come in separate boxes, along with a gigantic color glossy paper, suitable for framing but never framed, telling you exactly how to use this stuff. Because (sarcasm alert), like driving a car, there’s no need for training – we can get all we need to know by reading the manual.

Like searching for the prize in a Cracker Jack box

I’m supposed to change my CGM sensor every three days. I usually can go six or seven, but considering how many of them come DOA, I’d give it an average lifespan of five. So six of these bad boys go in my body – and then in the trash – each month.

That booklet has 100 pages in 8 that carrot cake on the box?

And let us not forget those bloody test strips. 300 or so per month. All bound for the trash. (300 lancets too, if I’m playing by the rules).

The joke's a bloody riot if you're British.

I don’t even bother to count “incidentals” (alcohol, IV3000, tape, never-ending stacks of prescription receipts, insurance claims, and other paperwork.)

But the bottom line – that’s a lot of trash. And unless we want to go back to glass syringes and boil-until-sterile needles, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. If we live in a community (like mine) that recycles all kinds of paper and cardboard, that’s a plus. But there’s not a whole lot that we, as people living with diabetes, can do.

This is about the only thing of mine that doesn’t go in the trash.

They don't call it Durable Medical equipment for nothing.

There are ways to reduce packaging, though. Maybe one day we’ll buy pre-filled reservoirs and forget about insulin vials entirely. Maybe the leaflets, fliers, and booklets that come in every package will be replaced by a tiny QC code. Scan on your smartphone to learn how to insert a sensor in English, Chinese, or Hebrew. Maybe those plastic test strips could be made of eco-friendly cardboard instead.

At least I no longer use strips that come individually wrapped in foil. That’d be a real waste.

Image credit: Glucometer/Ascensia Elite users guide

Posted on February 10, 2012, in Diabetes. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.


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