In 2015, a marine biologist filmed her team removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nostril. The video went viral, and a few years later, the global campaign to eliminate single-use plastics was in full swing. Companies like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Evian, United Airlines, and even Red Lobster vowed to cut down on plastic waste. But even the most stringent anti-straw advocates among us know that sustainability has its limits. When it comes to the tools doctors use to poke, prod, test, and treat us with, human safety, not the safety of the planet, is paramount.

But the two aren’t always in conflict, according to a paper in the December issue of Health Affairs — the first-ever issue on the intersection of climate and health. There’s a way to cut down on medical waste and the emissions produced by manufacturing new medical supplies, according to the analysis, which notes that the supply chain is responsible for 80 percent of the emissions from healthcare sources in the U.S. The solution is called medical device reprocessing.

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