BEVA Sustainability Group member Julia Shrubb discusses sustainability in equine wound management.
Bandaging is often a key part to wound management and results in large volumes of waste. There are also significant environmental costs, using energy and resources, to produce, transport and dispose of bandaging materials.
Many people do not stop to consider what happens to waste once it has been put in the bin. There are of course financial and environmental costs to disposing of anything.
“There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.”
The “Waste Hierarchy Framework” can be used to help reduce waste. This inverted pyramid shows preferential actions at the top, with least preferential at the bottom. When considering waste, many people instantly think of both recycling and using recycled materials, but there are preferential things to consider, higher up the framework.
When considering sustainable wound management, it must be acknowledged that clinical need takes priority and there are of course times when large amounts of bandaging waste will justifiably be generated.
Using the Waste Hierarchy Framework for sustainable wound management:
• Refuse, rethink, redesign: What is the clinical purpose for the bandage? Is any bandage required at all? Are there alternatives?
• Reduce: Can the bandage be modified to reduce the materials used? Again, what is the clinical purpose for the bandage? Would a lighter bandage suffice? Do any brands use less packaging?
• Re-use: Can any of the materials be re-used or re-useable materials used such as “stable bandages”, wraps, Pressage bandages and reusable belly bands
• Recycle: Are any of the materials or their packaging made from recycled materials? Can any of the materials or their packaging be recycled or composted?
• Recovery: Are the waste materials being separated and disposed of correctly? Is any non-clinical, non-recyclable, waste being incinerated at an energy recovery facility?
• Disposal: Are any materials being unnecessarily incinerated or sent to landfill?
It is very easy to think our individual actions are insignificant, but our small individual actions not only add up but will influence others and lead to changes in other parts of our lives, resulting in a powerful “ripple effect”.
“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”