Reducing Waste, Going Green With Diabetes Technology

Lutz Heinemann, PhD; Mark Harmel, MPH, CDCES


September 29, 2022

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Ladies and gentlemen, we now have many different technologies for diabetes therapy. Diabetes technology has become a pillar of diabetes therapy. The inventions of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems, patch pumps, and systems for automatic insulin delivery are helping patients around the globe every day improve their glucose control to avoid acute complications. This is great.

However, we also have to think about the downsides and the negative aspects of such technologies. If you unpack a CGM system or an infusion set, you have a pile of plastic, waste, and other material in front of you. What do you do with all the plastic waste? How do you dispose of it? Should you put it in the general garbage?

This is what we have done until now. I believe that in the future we will handle it differently. Is it because we are becoming environmentally more sensitive? I would say yes. Patients are becoming more sensitive, so the politicians become more sensitive. Here in Europe, there's an increase in the pressure to reduce plastic waste.

We — the Diabetes Technology Society in the US — have established the Green Diabetes Initiative. This initiative provides clear instructions and suggestions for what to do. We have a declaration published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology. For all of the groups, including not only the manufacturer or the patients, but also the insurance companies, politicians, and so on, we have to work together.

We have to form coalitions to tackle the complex topic of diabetes waste. Only if we work together can we really reduce the waste. We have to work together and move out of our comfort zone to make a difference and change. Otherwise, in the future we will see piles not only of diabetes waste, but also all the other waste. All of us have seen the pictures from beaches where plastic waste is piling up.

There are driving forces of patients and politicians that will make a change. My assumption is that patients, and probably also physicians, in the future would select a CGM system or insulin pump because the amount of waste generated is less than with the others.

It is my hope that green diabetes will become a topic that drives changes in the industry and in our usage of diabetes technology.

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