image of a hand drawn ECG trace with a heart in the middle

Zero Waste Challenge - Well shit.

Week 3 of my Zero Waste challenge started off very poorly.

I had a heart attack.

Two, actually.

I suffered my first SCAD heart attack when I was 34 years old and 6 months postpartum. Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) is when a tear forms in a wall of a heart artery. It is quite rare and still largely unknown, and 90% of cases are women. I had gone 6 years without any further heart complications until I randomly had this one, just after breakfast on Sunday morning while sorting lego.

I spent the next 5 days in hospital. During that time, I was asked to take a stress test and although it looked like I passed, within minutes I having another heart attack. And honestly...should anyone who's heart tore just 48 hours earlier be on a treadmill? Can't say I'm surprised.

Note to self: next time listen to your gut and refuse the test.


Anyway, back to my Zero Waste Challenge.

As per the above, not only did I skip nearly a week of reducing my waste, I also subsequently increased my waste tenfold.  

I've stated before that not all plastic is bad plastic. The medical industry is one of best examples of this. With the high volume of patients and turnover, critical timelines, and the nature of infections, plastic has been a major gamechanger for medicine. They require plastic for easy disinfecting, light weight maneuverability, and flexibility.

In fact, I literally had a piece of plastic lodged inside my body for the entirety of my stay: since I was considered "full code" in the cardiac unit, I had to have an IV valve in my arm the whole time, the bottom of which was a tiny plastic tube inside my veins, connected to plastic tubs and a mouth taped to my arm, ready for lifesaving intervention at a moments notice.

It's not their fault 

The plastics that I was most aware of (and feeling guilty for) were the single-use disposable kind. I probably filled up a mason jar with the EKG stickers alone. Every meal I was given included individually wrapped snacks, condiments, and/or plastic lids.

And I get it! And I also get why there aren't compost or recycling bins wheeled around when the trays are later collected. Hospitals are chronically understaffed and underfunded (moreso now with the Ford government...shall I also mention the packed ER and the completely empty hospital wings??). They are -rightfully so- focused on keeping people alive, not reducing their waste. 

It's too big of a problem with too many complexities for me to realistically be able to parse. There are obviously areas where hospitals and other medical clinics could improve on their environmental impact, but given the system they're working in, the time, staff and resources are simply not available to them to improve. 

The good news

I was impressed to see that they use stainless steel utensils instead of disposable ones, and served all their food on reusable thick plastic plates, bowls, and mugs. Of course they have to use straws for accessibility (we were in a hospital after all), but those straws were the paper kind.

They also had art throughout the hospital made from the discarded medicinal vile caps. This not only brightens the hallways, but also hopefully makes everyone consider the amount of disposables in this field, and possibly beyond.

Bethesda Nurse used 6000 caps to make art

This piece of art isn't from the hospital I stayed in, but I didn't think to take a photo of them at the time. 


Garbage collected this week:

  • Too much to count, nothing saved.  I'll start again next week, and hopefully not end back up in the hospital.  Wish me luck!
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