I just got home two days ago from the hospital for a thyroidectomy. I stayed only one night at the hospital, but I was completely dismayed at the amount of waste, specifically plastic waste. I must have gone through 8 Styrofoam cups, about 10 little pill cups, several juice cups, the container which goes on the toilet, a water pitcher, kidney shaped pan, and all the plastic wrap on everything from my socks to the bread for dinner. This does not count all the IV lines and other inevitable plastic equipment used in the surgery. Nothing was reusable or recyclable. The worst for me was getting a single slice of white bread neatly wrapped in cellophane. It didn't even resemble food! I am not sure why the hospital could not use paper cups for drinking and pills, and why they could not recycle some of the plastic which was not in direct contact with wastes, such as the pitcher.
I thought about the fact there were 366 beds at this hospital, all wasting what I would guess is about a pound of plastic a day. Multiply this by 7569 hospitals in the US, and you have about 2,770,000 pounds of plastic per day being thrown into the environment.
There was nothing I could do about my thyroid, however this experience made me realize that by watching our health we are minimizing our impact on the environment. Hospitals and doctor's offices are so paranoid about germ contamination they contaminate our environment without hesitation. I understand, having taken microbiology, how vital it is that hospitals are as close to sterile as possible. The problem is they are creating a worse medical crisis in the long run. Our ability to deal with our physical environment is fast declining, and it is logical that chemicals are responsible for this. When are they going to wake up and realize that you cannot just keep jettisoning plastic garbage in these amounts and expect to have a clean and healthy environment; if there is not a clean environment, how can we have healthy people?
I did end up taking the water pitcher home. I cannot recycle it, but since it is insulated I can use it to keep a jar of milk warm when making yogurt. At least one small thing was reusable.