Person holding Tyvek decides between trash or recycling

The Amount Of CF Medical Waste Is Garbage

Piles of plastic medicine ampoules, monthly hoards of cardboard packaging, and the insane mound of medical waste after home IVs, having CF produces a ton of garbage. It’s one of the things I truly hate about CF. Most of the garbage is out of necessity--I need specific medications and treatment and there are no other options. There aren’t a lot of options as far as different packaging either--you get what you get. Also, many medical supplies need to be kept sterile and that means lots of single-use plastic and extra packaging to keep them clean. It’s a necessary evil that’s hard to escape, so to speak.

Until the medical and pharmaceutical industries get their act together and go green where they can, all hope is not lost. There are some ways people living with CF can help reduce medical waste at home with a bit of attention.

Which CF medical waste products are recyclable?

Unfortunately, a lot of medical waste is not recyclable and ends up in landfills across the country, and it really stinks. No pun intended.

More on this topic

However, there are some items included in general CF care that can be recycled if you know what you are looking for. It’s always best to read the label on an item and let it help guide you in addition to researching your local recycling hub and what they accept. (For plastics specifically, the number inside the recycling symbol can tell you whether it can be recycled and in what manner.) If you are unsure, you can always check out Recycle Nation for more information.

Generally, the following CF items can be included in your normal recycling: 1

  • Cardboard packaging - Cardboard shipping and prescription boxes are easily recyclable. Make sure they are broken down before recycling.
  • Sterilization blue wrap - Sterile blue cloth-like wrap often included in port/picc line dressing change kits. It may be recycled with other #5 materials.
  • Irrigation bottles - Irrigation bottles like sterile water used to sanitize nebulizer cups can be recycled with other #5, #2 materials
  • Tyvek - This paper seal is often used over plastic packaging of dressing change kits, Huber needles, CGM needle kits, etc. To distinguish Tyvek, look for long intertwined fibers that can be seen when a light source is placed behind the material. Tyvek can be recycled with other #2 materials.

Go green in other ways

Personally, I try to remember that CF may not be the area of my life that is kindest to the environment, but there are other ways I can make up for it. It is easy to take inventory and see what areas can use a little work. Over the years, I have made some changes to ease my guilt over the radical amounts of medical waste pouring from our home.

Reusable grocery bags and food bags

The first--and easiest--switch we made was using reusable shopping bags when grocery shopping instead of single-use plastic bags. So simple, yet so helpful to the environment. We also went a step farther and added some reusable ziplock bags for snacks and food storage. We aren’t perfect all the time in this arena, but any change is impactful.

Sustainable menstrual products

Ending up in landfills, the average woman uses 11,000 disposable menstrual products over the course of her life.2 For women, one of the biggest changes you can make is switching to sustainable menstrual products. I switched over four years ago to a menstrual cup and love it!

I know there might be a slight gross-factor at first. But--trust me--after some use, you’ll be glad you switched due to the money and waste you save. In addition, you can learn a lot about your body and health from these products.

Thankfully, consumer markets are catching on and menstrual cups and reusable cloth pads are easily accessible at most stores now. If you are unsure, give it a try and go from there!

Food composting

Backyard composting has gained popularity in our household due to boredom from quarantine. Our leftover food scraps go into a small turnable composter in our yard that with time has decomposed the waste into nutritious and healthy compost for the garden. We definitely take out the trash less and have lowered our carbon footprint as a whole. 3

How have you tried to reduce medical waste, recycle, and reuse in your experience with CF? Let us know below!

Poll

In what ways do you go green? (Check all that apply)

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Cystic-Fibrosis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.