Friday, October 27, 2006

The New Big Blue Box

Well, just when I thought I had nothing to blog about, I was given a gift. Today’s topic: plastics.

I had my first opportunity to use Medtronic’s Adapta and Versa pacemakers today. Nice line, but no big paradigm shift from last year’s models. What WAS different, however, was the packaging: each of these pacemakers were packaged in a fairly thick Big Blue plastic box emblazoned with a beautiful Medtronic logo. Not cardboard, as in prior years’ models. Nope, non-biodegradable, last-for-ever, oil-cartel supporting, plastic. I guess trees in ol’ Minnesota are getting thin, so they went with plastic. Or could there be another reason… Hmmmm…

Remember that meeting between Art Collins and Carlos Gutierrez earlier this year? Could this have been what the Bush administration wanted: the use of plastic to support big oil interests? Maybe it’s cheaper to manufacture, I really don’t know. But like it or not, the long-term implications of packaging like this are significant. Other big corporations like McDonalds got rid of their Styrofoam clam-shell packaging for their Big Macs in favor of cardboard boxes due to grass-roots pressure. Even Starbucks has been pressured to bring back paper cups in many of its stores. Now I don’t consider myself particularly “Green,” but with the price of oil these days, it seems it should be cheaper to package in cardboard rather than plastic – certainly it seems better for our environment.

And how do hospitals get rid of their trash? All this trash was commonly incinerated and this has been a sensitive topic here in Illinois. Landfills are no better, since this stuff will never decompose.

Now don’t get me wrong. Medtronic is a fine company and makes great products. But decisions to make packaging changes should be examined carefully, especially when they have such an important world-wide impact for our patients and environment.



Unknown said...

I received a Versa implant on Thursday (first pacemaker, first surgery, first everything), and upon checkout of the hospital was handed my manual and id card inside of this tough blue plastic box. Given that I'm going to have this thing in me for 10 years, I like that I have a place to keep my paperwork and manual. So, render one voice of dissent -- I don't like it when my valuables biodegrade.

Of course I found the manual to be absurdly lightweight. The manual for my cordless phone is significantly more informative. Considering it's wired up to my heart, I'd like to know more about it. (The website is no help.)

DrWes said...

Congrats on your new pacemaker! Hopefully all went well. I'm interested in your comment:

...I like that I have a place to keep my paperwork and manual.

In my experience, these boxes were used for packaging only and have always been discarded at the end of the case and not given to the patient to house their manual. Did you do home with yours? If so, here might be a use to this blue box, after all!

Usually the info is pretty good in those manuals, but is admittedly geared to a novice audience. Talk with your doc - he might be able to have other info sent to you.