Public perception of medical plastic waste

This week we're taking a look at the media landscape over on the social side.


The image you see is a word cloud generated after an A.I. system evaluated all of the Tweets over the last two weeks surrounding medical plastic waste.

Conversation surrounding health care/hospital plastic waste is relatively limited. There's a small population of thinkers and engineers coming up with alternatives to plastic usage in the medical field (see keyword "solutions") that continue to develop new technologies and systems to test in the "real world" of medical care.

Apart from those innovators, however, the majority of discussion around medical plastic waste currently focuses around... masks. Namely, disposable mask waste, (see keyword "viruses") and where that waste ends up - with many social media users expressing concerns over ocean plastics pollution (see keywords "oceans," "seas and oceans").

Syringes, packaging, IV bags, tubing, etc. all fall by the wayside while we're in the throes of pandemic pollution. Clearly, these products and their usage are still important to address, alongside the materials used to produce those products in the first place.

However, looking at the current social media landscape surrounding health care plastics, the concern that eclipses all others is the usage of disposable face masks. A new study by MIT (linked under Science) weighed the environmental and financial costs of different mask usage scenarios and found, unsurprisingly, that reusable masks would be a "win-win" on both fronts. Selecting masks that would provide quality sanitation and safety would be the largest caveat, however; and in the study researchers explore different options.

Overall, we're in a unique period of history, where burgeoning rules and regulations surrounding plastics were quickly thrown out the window when a global crisis began, and we're now coming to the point where innovators, legislators, corporations and more must decide whether or not to continue down the unregulated path or if it is time to turn toward eco-friendly solutions in the "new normal" where COVID-19 persists. This question, particularly focusing on disposable mask usage, is at the center of the social discussion surrounding medical plastic waste.

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