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Evolution of the consumable society

Our fascination with the unspoiled

What is it? What’s with the worldwide obsession with all things shiny and new? Whatever happened to investing in something which would last a lifetime, or at least a long time? Customers of today are ruthless, with a voracious appetite to consume. Are we so used to having access to as much of what we want that quality is no longer a requirement? 

The answer is both yes and no. One must remember, not all disposables are made equal.

Ok, so which are the bad eggs in the world of disposables? Sure, they’ve all been made to somehow make our lives more convenient but has it come to the point where novelty is outweighing necessity? 

Disposables originated due to a fear of bacteria. The first single-use drinking cup was invented after a health pioneer saw a young girl drink from a communal cup right after a tuberculosis patient in the early 1900’s. At that point, the potential for cross-contamination from reusables was identified and by 1909 a ban on communal drinking cups was in place. 

A great breakthrough in our medical history, so why the negativity? Well, unfortunately, the nature of disposables soon changed course…

Spiralling out of control

Once the world opened its eyes to disposables, the convenience they provided was soon realised. Cheap products promoted as both hygienic and handy rolled out across all consumer markets, with many manufacturers quickly learning the profitability of repetitive consumption. Besides single-use medical equipment like our dental instruments, when modern consumables are created the original need for infection prevention is often overshadowed by providing first world conveniences. Consider the disposable camera, batteries or coffee pods, with no health benefits offered, for what reason do we need them other than their cheap and opportune nature?

Australians alone toss around 8,000 tonnes of used household batteries that end up in landfill. These are known to leak toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead or mercury when they erode which contaminate the environment.

But they aren’t the only offenders in the unnecessary waste game. Let’s look towards items that aren’t classed as ‘single-use’ but are alarmingly being treated like disposables as our nonchalant throwaway attitude grows. Think about it, how often do you buy a new phone? Was the last one broken? Probably not. How about your last TV, how long did you have it before you upgraded to a newer model? 

What do you think happened to your old ones? 

To put it into perspective, in 2008, there were an estimated 37 million computers in Australia that were already in landfill or sent to landfill. Since then at least 3 million computers have been sold here each year and roughly 75% of these will not be recycled. Electronic waste is responsible for 70% of the toxic chemicals found in landfill and continues to be an escalating issue for the environment. 

“Necessity, the mother of invention.”

Shocking, isn’t it? Now we’re not pointing the finger, a lot of us are careful about separating our household waste into the appropriate bins but we also reckon after reading the last paragraph, most of you could say you’ve been guilty of contributing to the e-waste problem at some point.

Before we jump on the bandwagon of damning short life products (we are after all a retailer of single-use items) we must remember; all disposables are not made equal. What are we getting at? Going full circle, it directly relates to the contamination benefits they were originally designed for. Hygiene and cleaning practices have undeniably come a long way since the early 19thcentury and we are a lot safer drinking from the ‘communal cup’ now than we were then – glass of vino down the pub anyone? 

However, in areas of heightened exposure to disease, single-use instruments like ours are necessary. Hospitals, clinics and basically any healthcare environment must be aseptic at all times. Unfortunately, even the latest reprocessing methods cannot guarantee complete sterility of reusable devices so until that is a reality, any invasive or barrier protecting device used should be disposable.

The idyllic outcome? Create only what is necessary. 

What about the waste issue?

We aren’t done yet… even if we only made disposables for healthcare, the health industry is the second-largest contributor to landfill after the food industry. There would still be a tremendous issue with the waste generated from that entirely. Realistically, disposables are now so commonplace in our culture that removing them isn’t an option. We can reduce our use but alternative waste management is where the answer lies.

Single Use Dental Instruments are doing what it takes to make our instruments a single-use, zero waste solution. We want to better manage our waste to provide an excellent resource for new products designed for use outside of the healthcare environment, which by doing so will protect ours.

Recycling healthcare waste is a tricky process but one which is already in place in other environmentally aware countries. We are working tirelessly to ensure that we can bring this to Australia.

Stay tuned for progress updates on our journey to sustainability.