Zero-Waste exceptions?

It has been a while since my last update, and recently I have experienced a painful event leading me to view the exceptions of zero-waste living: hospital care.  There are many places we can get creative and avoid producing garbage, purchasing plastics, reducing our gut-punch to the environment, and it may be relatively simple to do in your own home, office, airplane, or on a road trip.  However, accidents and life happen, so what about medical emergencies?

Recently I experienced my first broken bone (jaw in two places – I do not recommend it), followed by my first hospital stay, first experiences with morphine and anesthesia, and had a lot of time sitting in my hospital bed to look at the amount of garbage we produce in hospitals: cups, straws, neck braces, IV packets, hoses, medication packs, syringes, thermometer tops, and on and on and on.  What is the alternative?  There come times in our lives where we must accept medication in plastic containers, visit hospitals, and throw away medical equipment due to contamination problems.  I would like to know if anyone has found alternatives to when accidents happen and you are bed-ridden in a hospital.  What would we use that would be “safe” AND environmentally friendly?

I was thinking to “back in the day” how they would have solved such a problem before we had made the strides in technology we have today, thinking back 100 years or so.  A broken jaw?  A doctor would have probably wrapped your head in a cloth, told you not to talk or move your mouth, and the bones would have healed together “as is”, or you may have died from infection.

The only thing I was able to do to somehow reduce the amount of garbage was to take the three plastic straws home with me from the hospital to reuse for my six week liquid diet, refuse more painkillers (not to the point of being absurdly stubborn – I was managing the pain), request recyclable juice containers (high-maintenance patient, what?!), reuse my water cup, and to leave the hospital early (with doctor approval, of course).  I have a hard time letting go of my waste-avoidance patterns once I am in the habit of doing so.

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