Diabetes Forecast

Reduce, Reuse . . . Regret?

By Sara Sklaroff, Editor at Large ,

There is, no doubt, a utopian future in which all trash is recycled efficiently and easily, perhaps even instantaneously. But we do not live in that time. And as committed as I am to recycling (and reusing, and repairing), I still amass a big pile of junk each month that is destined for the landfill. Diabetes junk, that is. Living with diabetes—particularly if you are injecting insulin—means generating a lot of waste that cannot go into the recycling bin. And I feel guilty about it.

This is not to say that I am eager to go back to the days of glass syringes and needles that had to be boiled and sharpened again and again. I am deeply grateful for disposable pens and syringes, sterile continuous glucose monitor packs, and meters that litter used test strips in my wake like a bread-crumb trail. (Seriously, I find those little guys everywhere.) But I am also concerned about the toll it all takes on the environment.

What better way to reuse diabetes trash than to make recycled Valentine's Day cards? Everything pictured here came from my recycling pile, including the test strip vial that became a pop-up greeting and the card stock cut out from the inner packaging for my continuous glucose monitor sensors.

Washington, D.C., where I live, does not have a sharps disposal program. So I make my own containers out of empty laundry detergent bottles. (At least it's an eco-friendly brand; do I get points for that?) These bottles then get sealed with duct tape and marked "biohazard" before going in the regular trash. The "biohazard" part is somewhat amusing, because there's nothing radioactive or viral about my dried blood. But it makes the whole thing feel a bit more dramatic and edgy, like I'm in one of those movie thrillers about a modern plague that threatens civilization. That movie would not be about diabetes, though. Despite being a modern plague that threatens civilization, diabetes will never be made into a feature starring Matt Damon and Kate Winslet bravely going uncombed while pretending to be government epidemiologists.

But now I'm just wasting words. So let me get to the point: Shouldn't there be a way, and perhaps a lucrative way for someone with a better business mind than my own, to turn diabetes trash—which is, after all, just paper and metal and plastic—into the same sort of recyclable material that goes into our special blue bins? Why should being a careful manager of your diabetes have to mean sending so much stuff to a landfill? Or becoming a DIY medical waste engineer? Keeping yourself healthy shouldn't have to come at the expense of the planet.



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