By Hamidah In Publications

An Ethical Question: The Impact of Single-Use Plastics on Healthcare Across the Globe

Healthcare is one of the leading industries in terms of plastic production. This article will discuss whether the amount of plastic being used should be reconsidered and whether it is doing more harm than good. In countries where sanitation is a fundamental problem, is it fair to scrutinize the usage of single-use plastics, especially in the health-care sector?

Plastic is a synthetic material consisting of polymers linked together in a chain-like fashion. It was developed in New York in 1907. Since the manufacturing boom during the industrial revolution, creating materials and their distribution has continued to increase in terms of production and speed.

This has allowed for plastic as well as other products to take over the nation and the planet. Approximately 8 million metric tonnes of plastic are pumped into the ocean nationally. Creating great concern among scientists and environmental professionals.

The synthetic material – plastic, has been proven to be more sterile, affordable and efficient to make and therefore is incredibly easy to mass-produce. Thus, the new concept of plastic being used for a single period began to grow as well as our landfills. Plastics are incredibly resistant materials that do not disintegrate, but rather break down into microplastics. 51 trillion microplastics reside in the ocean making them easily digestible by marine life and even humans. Considering plastic was not created with edible intentions, consuming the material has considerable negative effects on the human body and animals residing in the ocean.

However, the question arises, is plastic pollution a western problem?

Single-use plastics have revolutionized the western world, and their introduction to developing societies has managed to evolve nations and the health of their citizens. Despite their environmental output, plastics and especially single-use plastics are more sanitary than their reusable counterparts. Waste is not the only concern that comes with plastics in medicine. It raises the question of whether plastic medical disposables are ethically produced and whether medical facilities are socially responsible in their usage.

Disposable plastics are cheap. This affordability could be compromising moral standards. Single-use plastic instruments are being produced and manufactured in “dangerous working conditions”. (The Guardian, 2008). Pakistani children starting from the age of eight are creating [plastic] medical tools for as little as $2.11 (CAD). Hospitals must take the necessary precautions to ensure all medical disposables are made humanely.

For a long time, plastic will continue to be the leading material, especially in the healthcare industry, until we find an alternative that is eco-friendly and sustainably produced. Plastic has become so intertwined in our society, that at this point opting for other materials like paper, and glass may have a larger impact on our planet than their plastic counterpart. In healthcare, single-use products are very much necessary as they ensure a sterile environment and reduce the risk of contamination between patients. Single-use plastics have become the epicentre of healthcare since the 1960s and third-world, developing countries are beginning to revolutionize their healthcare practices by being introduced to single-use products.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had set out a couple of years ago to eradicate polio, one of their main issues in confronting and solving the problem was the lack of hygiene, sanitation and influx of contamination in the target nations. These governments were unable to provide adequate resources their citizens needed to stay clean. Therefore, diseases were rapidly being spread all due to a lack of sanitation. Nevertheless, the same applied to healthcare, however when single-use plastics became introduced healthcare professionals were able to decrease contamination at a low cost with minimal effort.

Society today has begun to adopt an equal-sum mentality, the mentality that commodities are infinite, therefore pushing the divide between wealthy western and European nations and the developing world. We fail to see the impact our ‘greedy’ lifestyle impacts others.
One man’s succession is another man’s loss. Sanitation will continue to be an afterthought for many developing nations that deal with other issues that are far greater.

As innovation continues to increase, western nations will continue to develop and third-world countries will continue to stay stagnant. Our privilege has to lead us to the inevitable doom mankind continues to face.

Sources

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