The use of plastic as a consumable has been increasingly adopted since Americans came out of the Great Depression. The globe followed suit, generating 249 million tons of plastic by 1970. The medical industry has adopted the technology around the same time frame (30s, 40s and 50s) to eliminate biohazardous risks of infections and other contamination. Single-use plastics have since played a large part in the development and administration of the Polio vaccine, insulin, and other revolutionizing clinical treatments.
Today, plastics represent 36% of waste generated in a clinical setting, 27% of this considered to be infectious, toxic, or radioactive. Once disposed of, 43% of hazardous waste in the US is treated with some form of burning, including incineration, fuel blending, and energy recovery (11%,11% and 20% respectively).
The EPA reports that the categories of “Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories,”“General Medical and Surgical Hospitals,” “Medical Equipment and Supplies Manufacturing,” and “Scientific Research and Development Services” industries produced 44,979 tons of this hazardous waste in 2019. A low-bound estimate of the clinical industry in 2019, indicates it was responsible for burning 6,770 tons of biohazardous plastic in the United States alone.
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