Healthcare packaging waste issues discussed at MD&M East thanks to Bella the Bride

By Daphne Allen in Sustainable Packaging on July 26, 2016

Brides are always the center of attention, and Bella the Bride at MD&M East 2016 was no exception. The special display by DuPont and Beacon Converters featured a wedding gown made of discarded Tyvek and succeeded in stimulating attendee discussions on the topic of managing healthcare packaging waste. 

Made by environmental educator and artist Nancy Judd (known for the Recycle Runway Collection), Bella the Bride visited MD&M East June 14-15, having visited AORN’s Surgical Conference & Expo and CleanMed 2016 events earlier in the year. “Bella’s presence throughout her tour and at her unveiling has been an incredible conversation starter!” Terri Shank, Beacon’s sustainability officer/director of IT & marketing projects, tells PMP News. “Her entity helps acknowledge that healthcare packaging waste is an issue and Tyvek is a commonly used recyclable material -- HDPE #2. Bella is the personification of a message that promotes the reduction of healthcare packaging waste to landfill.”

To learn more about Bella the Bride’s story, please read “Say I do to material recovery” and “MD&M East welcomes Bella the Bride to showcase sustainability.”

DuPont’s Marc A. Bandman, PhD., who serves as Americas Market Manager, was on hand at DuPont’s booth and spoke with many of the attendees who had just seen Bella. “Many folks I spoke with were first impressed by the beauty and quality of the dress sculpture. When they learned more about what it was made from, they further commented on the creativity of bringing the reuse/recycling message to life and that they had no idea Tyvek could be made into the shapes and configurations displayed in the body of the dress and the flowers on the train.”

Adds Shank: “It was great to have people seek [Bella] out at the show and have a chance to see the dress on display and touch the material on DuPont’s touch stands [displayed along with the dress.] In general, people were really surprised that she was made out of Tyvek (and not paper!)”

Bandman was particularly struck by the excitement of a nurse in attendance, Joan Nevius, BSN, RN, CNOR, who had first heard about Bella at AORN and decided to come to MD&M East to see her progression. “She was so inspired by the Bella project and spoke about how she then engaged her hospital, including doctors, to think about the plastic waste they generate and how they can begin recycling,” says Bandman. “I shared information on HPRC and hospitals near her that are already far down the path and happy to help others. There’s never any hesitancy when a hospital is asked to share their recycling success story." (For more details on HPRC, read our article, "Examining the value of healthcare plastics recycling."

“One thing I’ve learned through my HPRC experiences is that there are many healthcare workers who are passionate about protecting the environment and associate it with their mission of improving their communities’ health," continues Bandman. "They only need help in finding solutions, whether it’s providing recycling friendly packaging on the front end or ways of collecting it on the backend. Medical device designers and their suppliers can definitely help out the front end and sometimes even the backend.”

Shank says that Bella the Bride gave attendees the chance to speak about these very challenges. “It is difficult to recycle healthcare plastics and there are barriers that need to be overcome. After Bella’s debut, on June 22nd HPRC published an article, “HPRC and the Circular Economy,” which discusses these issues in more detail. These are the same challenges we heard while on tour with Bella earlier this year,” she explains. “For the most part, Bella followers understand that there are not definitive solutions on how to deal with the challenges of recycling healthcare plastics, but commonly there is hope for the unfolding of an infrastructure that supports recovery and secondary life of single use plastics reclaimed from healthcare.”  

Adds Bandman: “Bella inspired many at your show, at CleanMed, and at the AORN conference. We all need to continue finding ways to keep the message fresh and alive to maintain focus on addressing the environmental waste issue. While it’s not the immediate, ‘in-your-face’ driver like some other pressures (i.e., regulatory, cost) faced by medical device companies, it does need sustained attention and innovation throughout the value chain.”

Bella’s next scheduled appearance will be at the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) annual meeting in September. 

 

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Looking for inspiration for your next medical packaging project? Visit MD&M Minneapolis September 21-22 for the latest in packaging materials, equipment, automation, and more!

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