Without pointing any fingers specifically, I would just like to say that the amount of packaging for most diabetes devices seems unnecessarily wasteful. So NOT GREEN. Check out the photo proof below:


My, what a pile.

I realize that a certain amount of cardboard, foam, and bubble wrap is required to ship the stuff without damage, but some of it just seems over the top. I know that other PWD consumers have noticed this as well. See Allison‘s notes on huge boxes for small glucose meters, and Gina‘s gripe over bulging bottles that hold far too few test strips.

Again, no offense to the company, which makes a wonderful product, but what is up with this fancy hard-cover attaché case that comes with OmniPod starter kit?


Once you take out the pump and its mini carry pack, you never look back at this thing again.


Medtronic’s Guardian box is also surprisingly gi-normous, as my kids would say. We could make a bed for the kitty out of that box.


Not to mention the layers and layers of foam inserts.


Our garbage collectors must think we’re running a private hospice over here, with all this medical waste going out. In fact, I cringe to think what heaps of extraneous packaging materials must be flowing through actual hospitals these days. Hasn’t the push for eco-friendly packaging been going on for at least five years? For an entire hospital, it’s certainly not easy being green. But for the stuff you ship out to individual diabetics across the country, could you maybe scale it down just a bit?


19 Responses

  1. kokernutz
    kokernutz April 11, 2008 at 6:55 am | | Reply

    THANK YOU FOR COMMENTING ON THIS! I think about this all the time. I feel like my medical-waste has gone down since going on the pump, but I am still super-conscious of all the non-recyclable packaging my infusion sets and resevoirs come in.

  2. Jonathan
    Jonathan April 11, 2008 at 7:10 am | | Reply

    Great point. You had a post a while back about the used test strips around your home. How about all of the empty test strip containers? The One Touch containers could easily hold 50-75 strips. Could those little plastic bottles be recycled?
    I will say, in fairness, that when I started out with injections, each syringe was individually wrapped in a paper and plastic sleeve and, when I went off them, they were in a plastic bag of 10.
    If any of the manufacturers follow this site, it would be interesting to hear a response on why they cannot do better.

  3. Scott
    Scott April 11, 2008 at 8:26 am | | Reply

    Amy, I certainly agree with your assessment, but we haven’t accounted for a major constituency behind all of this packaging: retailers, including the biggest one of them all, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. They are the key factor behind much of the packaging for testing supplies, and there are many reasons for the sizes, including shipping the product (usually from China), protection from shrinkage, display shelf sizes, and probably many others I haven’t even considered here. In many cases, Wal-Mart is the reason, and every other retailer and/or distributor must accept those packaging decisions because that’s what the single biggest buyer wants.

    On the bright side, yesterday, it was announced that the company will meet with its thousands of Chinese suppliers this fall as part of a big push to reduce waste and emissions at factories that make its products, and it is expected that this could have a profound impact on the equation. But I think the healthcare industry has a long, long way to go before they can really be considered “earth friendly”.

  4. Mark
    Mark April 11, 2008 at 8:40 am | | Reply

    I too agree with you. The only thing that I use less now then what I did when I was first diagnosed close to 30 years ago, is the amount of my blood when I test.

  5. elizabeth joy
    elizabeth joy April 11, 2008 at 9:12 am | | Reply

    Funny–Last night I opened my OmniPod case for the first time since I got the pump, because I’d run out of alcohol wipes and realized there were still a couple I’d never taken out. And I had the same thought–This is pretty, and it made me all happy and excited when I first unzipped it but…What’s it for??

    Same with the actual pods. I could build an actual city out of the pods I’ve used, and light that city with the unused battery power.

  6. George
    George April 11, 2008 at 10:01 am | | Reply

    I have thought about how great an zip lock or small envelope would be for test strips. Why do we have 35mm film containers for 25 strips?

    Thanks for bringing this up!

  7. barbara-ann
    barbara-ann April 11, 2008 at 3:48 pm | | Reply

    I couldn’t agree more and think about that everytime I receive my Minimed supplies and test strips. I try to re-purpose some of the packaging by cutting geometric shapes from glucose strip boxes and then use modge podge to glue them on galvanized tin pails. They make interesting containers to store your supplies. I’ve also punched some holes in the bottom and used them as pots for plants – boomerang shapes are fun to cut out and give a vintage look:-)

  8. Kevin D
    Kevin D April 11, 2008 at 4:00 pm | | Reply

    It’s funny someone brought up the “pod.” That’s one of my biggest peeves with the Omnipod. Why does the entire device have to be thrown out each time? Why can’t the electronics and the batteries be reused? Make the pod part a two part pod and it would be up my alley.

  9. Sara from Team Sweetpea
    Sara from Team Sweetpea April 11, 2008 at 4:21 pm | | Reply

    Amen to that. I go through an obscene amount of plastic packaging between my test strips and infusion sets – at least the plastic trays for Minimed sets are recyclable, but the pile of trash is still depressing.

    I was happy to discover that Freestyle really fills up their test strip vials. It can be a bit hard to get the first few strips out, but well worth it I say.

  10. cindy
    cindy April 11, 2008 at 6:57 pm | | Reply

    Thanks for commenting on this issue.
    The Deltec Cleo infusion sets are another big source of plastic waste. When every set includes its own inserter device, there’s a lot of plastic that gets thrown away.

  11. Janet
    Janet April 11, 2008 at 8:23 pm | | Reply

    Of course, the GI-normous packaging is all about perceived value. It’s the American way. If it’s bigger, it must be better.
    I think we should all send those huge OmniPod hard cases back to the company. I don’t mind so much throwing out the plastic pods themselves — they’re smaller than lots of other plastic junk we throw out over the course of three days — but wasting all those little button batteries that still have juice in them is ridiculous. I guess I can understand why, for safety reasons, each pod has to have fresh batteries, but isn’t there some way we can put them to use after the pod has expired? At first I thought an idea would come to me, so I dutifully pried them out of every pod and saved them in a jar on the kitchen counter. One found a home in a digital kitchen timer, but that’s it. One. So now I throw them away and feel like a terrible person for introducing potentially toxic material into the waste stream. : (
    I looked into selling them on eBay, but new ones are only 1-2 cents apiece.
    If the folks at Insulet were ingenious enough to come up with the life-changing engineering miracle that is the OmniPod, can’t SOMEONE there find a use for all those tiny batteries? Use them in the PDM perhaps?

  12. Kate
    Kate April 11, 2008 at 9:26 pm | | Reply

    I’ve wondered (but haven’t checked out) whether the batteries in the Omnipod are the same as hearing aid batteries…

  13. Jo
    Jo April 13, 2008 at 6:13 am | | Reply

    I bought some stuff at Ulta yesterday and when I got it home and opened the huge box, the small tube of stuff was at the bottom … I thought “what a waste”. Call Al Gore!

  14. geekgirl
    geekgirl April 13, 2008 at 12:48 pm | | Reply

    I always feel compelled to save the various packaging too. Funny world. So I have quite a few boxes of my paraphernalia in the home office. And a shoe box full of some my “old school” items. I wonder how many of us have saved product manuals and made room for empty boxes instead of keeping scrapbooks and mementos in our homes.

    I’d love it if more of the packaging was recyclable. The plastic + paper combo is a killer. And I’ve read that One-Touch strip bottles can’t be recycled because of the built-in desiccant to keep them dry. :-(

    When I heard of people buying “carbon offsets” to remove their guilt for airline travel CO2 emissions.. I was in shock. (An example: http://www.carbonfootprint.com/offset.aspx)

    But how credit much would I need to buy in order to make up for all of the plastic and shipping for products I need to stay alive? How much time should I spend peeling off pharmacy labels to protect my privacy before I put the paper boxes into the recycle bin? It makes my head spin.

    Ultimately I decide that the extra trash my insulin pump creates is LESS medical waste than dialysis 3-4 times a week, and let it go.


  15. Suzi
    Suzi April 13, 2008 at 12:51 pm | | Reply

    I learned a year and a half ago that we have an outlet for “weird hard plastic” and “weird soft plastic” recycling in my area. That takes care of some of the packaging for my QuickSets and reservoirs; the paper parts can go in the paper recycling as well.

    That leaves the needle; the needle that connects the reservoir to the insulin bottle; the sticky adhesive/alcohol swabby thing; and the previous set as the only trash from my diabetic life. Oh, and the 12-20 strips I go through every day (but the bottles themselves can go in “hard plastic”).

    This has dramatically cut down on my landfill stream. I live in an area with a LOT of recycling options, so even now the main things, perhaps usually the ONLY things, in the trash are old sets, strips, kitty litter, the occasional lightbulb (that will end as we switch to compact fluorescents, which need to be recycled/taken care of in a different facility) and meat or fish scraps that can’t be composted.

    Mail stores (Mailboxes, Etc., etc.) will take the freakin’ “peanuts” that come in every box of supplies, and we reuse the little boxes for mailing holiday presents. Still. If I didn’t live in green central, I’d be out of my mind with all of this waste.

    And THAT’s one of many reasons I don’t mind tubing. I couldn’t stand throwing away a whole pod every time I needed to change out a set. Yikes. (And … wait … you have to throw out BATTERIES as well? No way.) I only wish that my pump would run OK on rechargable batteries, but I do recycle the used ones.

  16. bryan wasserman
    bryan wasserman April 13, 2008 at 9:37 pm | | Reply

    I do find it pretty disturbing how as a culture we’ve pretty much completely shifted from REUSE, to USE-ONCE-AND-DISCARD. It makes perfect sense that this has occurred, since economic models undervalue actual costs of source materials (postponed costs assoc with disturbances of ecosystems, climate, air and water quality). The good news (maybe) is that most of this shift has happened in just the last 50 yrs, and can be unlearned over the next 50. Although experts have been warning of various collapses for just about as long, there’s been no pressure to push a change, and bring it into any kind of mainstream ethics discussion. Obviously, the scope of this forum doesn’t permit more than this glimpse we get as diabetics–who probably can’t imagine glass pump reservoirs we’d need to clean, o-rings we’d need to oil, tubing limited to 15-20″, and test strips scooped from bulk bins at the pharmacy–but there’re plenty of bigger impacts we have every day just living in a developed nation. If you’ve got a minute, do some rsrch on the senselessness of most bottled water sales.

  17. camille johnson
    camille johnson April 18, 2008 at 1:13 pm | | Reply

    Way back in the ’70′s, when I first became diabetic, test strips were made of paper. BUT, users were cutting them in half to get twice the bang for their buck, and before you know it, manufacturers did away with [green] paper and started making test strips of a thick plastic that can’t be cut.

  18. AlongSide
    AlongSide April 27, 2008 at 12:18 pm | | Reply

    I have noticed that ACCU-CHEK is downsizing the boxes they use for several of their meters. There are a few others that have smaller boxes as well so perhaps they realize smaller boxes and packaging is cheaper in the long run.

  19. Sesso
    Sesso January 23, 2009 at 9:46 pm | | Reply

    Great site.

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