The average American manages to throw out 4.5 pounds of solid waste (a.k.a. trash) every day. And while there are no hard statistics on how much garbage the average American with diabetes generates, we think its safe to say that its probably considerably more. Think about it. There are the plastic tubes that blood sugar test strips come in, not to mention the little plastic strips themselves. Oral medications often come in plastic pill bottles that cant be recycled. Insulin arrives in individual boxes, each with their own set of drug interaction paperwork and warnings. And syringes and lancets are designed for one-time usage and must be disposed of in a sharps container.
All this adds up to a lot of trash. And since we are doing our best to live healthy diabetes lives, the consumerism will continue.
How can we keep our diabetes-friendly routine environmentally friendly?
Properly dispose of your medical waste. After you have given yourself an insulin shot, pricked your finger, or inserted a new infusion set, put your sharps directly into a bio-hazard container or strong metal or plastic container. Once the container is full, tightly secure the lid, reinforce it with heavy-duty tape, and either throw it in the trash or bring it to a sharps disposal center (offered at many pharmacies and hospitals). If you do use the trash, check with your local waste management company to find out the policies on proper medical waste disposal.
Make sure those used test strips end up in the trash! After you test your blood sugar, be sure to either throw out your used test strip or dispose of it in a bio-hazard container. Dont let these strips litter the ground!
Re-use your pill bottles. Clean the bottles, peel the labels off, and use them to store craft supplies, gardening seeds, nuts and bolts from the tool kit, or other household bits and pieces.
What about old glucose meters? If you have a stash of old glucose meters, contact local diabetes support groups and certified diabetes educators and see if they want to use your old supplies in their classes and support groups as a visual aid.
What about unused, unexpired insulin? Did your insulin prescription change? Do you have bottles of unexpired insulin that you dont know what to do with and you cant use anymore? Donate your unopened, unexpired insulin to the Insulin For Life program, where they collect and donate insulin, syringes, test strips, and other supplies in urgent situations.
Recycle those inserts! All those paper pamphlets and instructional inserts that come with your medications can be recycled. So can the boxes they are packaged in! Make sure you toss that paper packaging into the recycling bin for a cleaner, greener Earth.
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Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...