Happy Birthday NHS! A reminder that health is important.

Debbie Hardy

This Plastic Free July, we’re taking a look at several of the ways we can all try to live more plastic-free lives. Last week was the 70th birthday of the NHS so it’s an important time to take a moment to talk about plastic waste related to medicines, medical conditions and disabilities.

People often ask if I live a plastic-free lifestyle, and for a large part, I do. I care deeply about the world around me and making it a less polluted place. But here’s one BIG reason why I can never be fully plastic free; it’s called an endocrine disorder.

I am incredibly fortunate to live in the U.K. where I have access to free healthcare, and can get treatment and medicine to manage my condition for free (thanks to the incredible NHS) but; all the medicines I need to use are wrapped in plastic! I have checked with my pharmacist and sadly it’s not currently possible for them to dispense my meds in anything other than a blister pack, so I’m stuck.

When I was first diagnosed and saw the meds I would need to take daily, I thought “well that’s it, I should just give up trying to be plastic-free because I’ll never achieve it now!” Blister packs for my daily meds, plastic dropper bottles for eye drops, tubes for ointment all add up to a very far from ‘zero waste’ life.

It can be very easy to get disheartened when challenging the status quo, or striving hard to achieve targets but failing to meet them.

But what happens when the status quo challenges us? Many countries are starting to enact bans on certain single use plastic items, which is a laudable goal. However not a huge amount of time is being given to the reality that these bans can actually can end up making life harder and more expensive for a section of society who may be reliant on disposable or plastic wrapped items.

The topic of disability and plastic straws is brilliantly discussed here; please have a read if you want to understand more about why some people’s needs involve using disposables.

I want to leave you with three things to remember, whether you are embarking on Plastic Free July for the challenge, or as the beginning of a wider lifestyle change.

1) Your health is paramount. If your ability or your health mean that you use a lot of plastic, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you take meds that can’t be overdosed, maybe make enquiries to your doctor or pharmacist to see if there are other packaging options than blister packaging. Do what you can, but remember if you can’t be the healthiest version of yourself, you can’t help keep our planet healthy!

2) Non judgement is vital; both for yourself, and for others. Don’t judge yours or anyone else’s plastic free journey on what you can’t do, instead focus on what you CAN achieve! None of us know what each other’s journey is like just by looking. Be prepared to offer advice if it is solicited; but more importantly be prepared to listen to others.

3) Don’t forget forgiveness. We are often our own worst critics. Slip ups and mistakes happen. It’s important to remind yourself; “I am doing my best, and my best is good enough”. We all have slip-ups, and nobody (nobody) is perfect.



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