Me: "I think I'll open this packet of paracetamol" (carefree whistling)
Information leaflet: "Ha, think again, moron!" (devilish laughter)
Because no matter which end you open the packet, in your moment of need the leaflet will be annoyingly Right There. Folded over the very thing you can't wait to get your hands on. The key to pain relief: seconds away, yet now, seemingly hampered by a paper Rubik's-level hideousness in terms of folding, unfolding, and not letting the precious content fall onto the floor. Because where I work, there's no 2-second rule. Well, you can rid your home of those sour memories, friends, at the same time as doing something amazing for the planet. Make your self comfortable with a glass of tap-water and a calcium-rich chocolate biscuit (yes that's absolutely a thing and very much allowed) and let me tell you how...
This week we’re showing off an exciting new piece of eco-friendly furniture in our Copmanthorpe porch. Forget fancy interactive screens and wipe-clean waiting room seating; we have something that will actually take your breath away! And by breath, I mean medicine packaging. Ahem. Stick with me! Tucked modestly away by the door is a new bin for collecting empty medicine blister packs. These plastic/foil mixed material recycling nightmares are now the subject of a Terracycle scheme. If you haven’t heard of Terracycle, then friends, prepare to be hit with the happy sledgehammer of hope that only a green project can provide: they have collection points all over the UK for a wide range of commonplace household items, from make-up to coffee pods, pens to pet food pouches, turning them into amazing things like playground equipment, vegetable beds, and benches. Check out their website and enter your postcode to see where you can take your stuff.
Listen, it's hugely important to me that we collect more than my colleagues around the country. Ha! That's right friends, who cares what your driver is for planetary health - rank competitive spirit, or dyed-in-the-wool good-naturedness (I am in the former category, no point denying it)? I think many people see greener healthcare as a pretty niche group, akin in numbers perhaps to a Matt Hancock appreciation society, or the Inland Revenue's Christmas card senders, but actually there are thousands of us! Go us! Plus, remember what we do; the choices we make, affect all our patients. All. Of. Us. Everyone. I'm touched and grateful when patients thoughtfully inquire how much a referral or some unusual medication will cost in monetary terms, but nobody's ever asked me what the planetary cost of a treatment is. Think about the energy required to process and package drugs, the transport costs, marketing, and then the waste generated. Everything has a carbon footprint.
But why is there no alternative to the current plastic packaging? You may well ask yourself this same question that swirls round my dreams where I open my consulting room door to be swamped by a tide of blue plastic gloves and large salivating bloodhounds. Well it's cheap to make, durable, and is very good at protecting its contents from changes in light and temperature. Medicines can be quite sensitive little flowers you know? Unfortunately progress is slow and not helped by a complete dearth of incentives or penalties for packaging manufacturers. Hmm, well perhaps the pharmaceutical industry could take a leaf out of Coca-Cola's book? In 2009 they started incorporating plant-based materials into their plastic bottles, from sugarcane in Brazil. Maybe we should appeal to Rishi Sunak here, as we know he has a penchant for ingestible Latin American plant-based entertainment (you can enjoy his "I love [Mexican] coke" interview here).
Anyway next time you've popped out all your pills, chuck the cardboard and leaflet in your recycling, and then bring your empty blister pack to our welcoming porch with its 'rainbow of hope' poster and friendly receptionists just inside the window, and know that you're earning lots of planet points! It'd be great if we could fill our bin before any of the other surgeries, and of course though normally quite private, on this occasion I promise to go public with my waste measurement ;-)