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Inhalers and EpiPens: Their Environmental Impact is Cause for Concern

Innovative medical devices such as single-use insulin pens and EpiPens have revolutionized the way we manage chronic conditions and emergencies. However, as we continue to rely on these lifesaving tools, it’s essential to consider their impact on the environment. The convenience of disposable medical devices comes at a cost to our planet, with tons of plastic waste being generated each year.

Take the case of Brian Brandell, a Type 1 diabetes patient who has relied on insulin pens for years. While these pens have undoubtedly improved his quality of life, he now grapples with the environmental repercussions of discarding the plastic components. This dilemma is not unique to him; it reflects a broader issue in the healthcare industry.

Plastic pollution is a pressing global concern, with the healthcare sector being a significant contributor. In 2023 alone, the industry produced over 24 billion pounds of plastic waste, a figure projected to rise to 38 billion pounds annually by 2028. This reliance on plastic, derived from fossil fuels, not only adds to the plastic crisis but also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

While medical device companies are making efforts to reduce waste by exploring recycling and alternative materials, the reality remains that most disposable medical devices end up in landfills or incinerators. Recycling these items is challenging due to safety concerns, irregular sizes, and complex material compositions.

Insulin pens, in particular, are a ubiquitous example of single-use devices that contribute to plastic waste. Companies like Novo Nordisk produce millions of insulin pens each year, most of which end up in household trash. Efforts to recycle these pens face hurdles due to the intricate design and materials used in their production.

Realizing the environmental impact of discarded insulin pens, individuals like Brian Brandell are taking proactive steps to address the issue. Innovations like his handheld cutter for insulin pens aim to facilitate disassembly for potential recycling. However, challenges persist in ensuring proper disposal and recycling of these devices.

Medical device companies are under mounting pressure to adopt sustainable practices and reduce their environmental footprint. Initiatives like recycling programs for insulin pens and inhalers represent steps in the right direction, but consumer engagement remains a challenge. Public awareness and participation are crucial in ensuring the success of these sustainability efforts.

Moving forward, the healthcare industry must prioritize sustainable design and production practices to minimize plastic waste and carbon emissions. Collaborative efforts between manufacturers, regulators, and consumers are essential in safeguarding both public health and environmental well-being.

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Forest Lawn Drive now free of RV encampment and parking

Nancy Sexton was thrilled when city crews cleared out more than 50 RVs in December that had been parked near her business for months, blocking parking spots and leaving behind trash and waste on Forest Lawn Drive.

Then she realized the long stretch of road near Barham Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills was suddenly off limits for not just parked RVs, but all parked vehicles. Much of the curb was painted red. No parking signs lined the sidewalk.

“It’s a dumb decision,” said Sexton, who owns the Muse Rooms, which offers leased office spaces. “It’s frustrating.”

The more than 50 RVs, which had been stationed along the winding road for months as a semi-permanent living encampment, were removed in December as part of the city’s operation known as Inside Safe. One goal of the program, which is part of Mayor Karen Bass’ initiative to bring people living on the streets indoors, is to end the cycle of homeless encampments being cleared by the city only to return a few weeks later.

But days after the RVs were removed, Sexton said, the curb was painted red and parking was limited. The new red zone is about a quarter mile long, running between Warner Bros. Studios’ Gate 9 entrance and North Coyote Canyon Drive.

The areas that do allow parking, meanwhile, have two-hour limits.

City officials also said the decision to restrict parking was done out of fire safety concerns, not to keep the RVs from resettling along the road. Sexton has her doubts.

The lack of parking along the street suddenly imposed a new, unexpected expense on her clients, prompting some to look elsewhere. The red curb has also become an irritation for some students and workers at the New York Film Academy and businesses nearby.

A road with RVs lining its right side.

RVs are parked on Forest Lawn Drive on June 27, 2023, in Burbank.

(David McNew/Getty Images)

Since the no-parking signs went up, Sexton said, she’s lost two regular members and two potential clients. All of them had aired concern about the lack of street parking and the added expense of paying $12 a day at the parking structure on site.

The parking fee, Sexton said, doubled the monthly costs for some members.

“I didn’t know how much of a problem it was going to be until there were people saying, ‘I can’t pay $12 a day,’ ” she said. “I’m really feeling it now.”

The situation highlights some of the unintended results as city officials look to address homelessness and the concerns of businesses and homeowners affected by makeshift encampments, whether they involve tents, vehicles, or both.

RV encampments have sprung up across the city amid a housing crisis that has left many people priced out of permanent homes. Local officials have looked for ways to address the issue, including new regulations that have targeted overnight RV parking.

According to the mayor’s office, the Inside Safe program has addressed 39 encampments so far, moving more than 2,400 people into interim housing and an additional 440 into permanent housing since December 2022.

Bass spokesperson Zach Seidl said the RVs that were removed from Forest Lawn Drive were themselves causing parking issues in the area, as well as raising other significant safety and public health concerns.

Members of the surrounding community have said removing the RVs “has helped on all three fronts,” Seidl said in a statement. “This operation has saved lives.

Stella Stahl, spokesperson for Councilmember Nithya Raman, said the city has helped many of the RV residents along Forest Lawn Drive to find housing indoors.

In a statement, Stahl credited the decision to limit parking to a request by the Los Angeles Fire Department, which called the area a “high fire severity zone.” A 2019 brush fire in the area burned more than 30 acres and threatened homes and businesses.

In a Sept. 19, 2023, letter, LAFD Assistant Chief Dean Zipperman asked the city Department of Transportation to install “Tow Away No Stopping Any Time” restrictions on the road due to the stopped and parked vehicles there.

To avoid the hassle of looking for parking, cinematography students Sanchin Vinay, Yifan Xiang, and Davide Picci carpool to their classes at the New York Film Academy, which shares a building with the Muse Rooms. Eliminating the RVs has opened some spots to them, although Picci said they’d been able to find spaces on the street before — “really far down.”

A couch on a sidewalk near an RV.

The curb along Forest Lawn Drive, where someone has left a couch.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Sometimes they pay the $12 for the daily parking to avoid being late for class. Carpooling helps cushion the cost.

Leslie Bates, a film production instructor, said she heard of students and faculty members having “volatile” interactions with the RV residents.

Now that the RVs have

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