The need for less waste and more recycling in


A presentation at this year’s annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm (September 19-23) will highlight the need to reduce the amount of waste created by diabetes care products and discuss different strategies to increase sustainability and recycling for diabetes. technologies. The lecture will be given by Professor Lutz Heinemann, Science Consulting in Diabetes GmbH, Kaarst, Germany.

A collaboration including medical specialists, environmental health experts and manufacturers came together recently (summer 2021) to reduce the environmental footprint left by plastics used in diabetes care.[1, 2]. Professor Heinemann explains: “After all, disposable diabetes devices – such as needles, syringes and pens, lancets, blood glucose strips and monitors, continuous blood glucose monitoring systems, vials of insulin, infusion tubes, disposable pumps and batteries – create huge amounts of plastic and other waste.[1] Yet the diabetes care products themselves may only represent 10% of the total waste weight and volume, with the rest being the packaging.[3]

The Diabetes Technology Society (DTS) in the United States is at the forefront of attempts to reduce diabetes-related waste. DTS is committed to conserving natural resources and waste management processes to promote environmental sustainability, which they base around the Five Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Redesign and Rehabilitate.[1]

In 2021, the DTS convened the Green Diabetes Summit. It was the first time that stakeholders from all relevant groups discussed sustainability and plastic waste reduction among themselves. “During the meeting, it became clear that we all need to step out of our comfort zone and see what each of us can contribute,” explains Professor Heinemann and continues: “Only by joining forces and by building coalitions we will have a chance to tackle plastic waste from diabetes care We need to improve the sustainability of diabetes devices throughout the life of the product, including the use of raw materials for manufacturing, packaging and transport.

Recycling in diabetes is nothing new. A recycling initiative supported the first ready-to-use insulin pen, launched by Novo Nordisk in the 1990s. The enclosures were recycled into park benches.[3] Under a pilot program by Novo Nordisk in Denmark, patients can now recycle used pens at pharmacies. Recycling products seems like a good idea at first glance; however, separating current products into their various components is often difficult. Currently, there is only a small market for recycled plastic.

The Green Diabetes Summit explored the importance of balancing performance and environmental impact when designing and developing new products. “There is a need to change and change mindset when designing new products to solve this problem,” says Professor Heinemann. “Designers need to think about recycling from the start. Otherwise, it is difficult to separate batteries, electronic parts and plastic. There is also a need to change the attitude of buyers and purchasers of diabetes products so that sustainable products are viewed favorably and have a competitive advantage in the market. Inevitably, recycling and other environmental initiatives come with costs. »

Whether patients or health services, even in high-income countries, are willing to pay a higher price for more environmentally friendly products is a moot point. The triple bottom line (profit, people, planet), which is used to assess the sustainability of a business or organization, is an accounting framework that integrates financial performance as well as social and environmental benefits. A society-wide shift in consciousness to value all three parts of the Triple Bottom Line will be needed for industry to consider environmental benefits in product design.

“Patients with diabetes will pay more attention to plastic waste,” says Professor Heinemann. “If they start basing their selection of a given insulin pen or CGM system also on environmental impact, that will impact business.” Regulatory or legal frameworks that require reducing the environmental footprint of these medical products will also help. “Recognition that a concerted effort is needed and a collaborative approach to the management of waste associated with the treatment of emerging diabetes,” Professor Heinemann concludes, “and if all stakeholders work together to create coalitions dedicated to the sustainability of diabetes devices and waste management, then a lot can be achieved.

Teacher. Lutz Heinemann, Science Consulting in Diabetes GmbH, Kaarst, Germany. Please email to arrange an interview. E) [email protected]

Tony Kirby at the EASD Media Center. T) +44 7834 385827 E) [email protected]

To read the Diabetes Technology Society Green Statement, please click here

For a summary of Professor Heinemann’s meeting presentation, please click here

This work will form part of the EASD embargoed press on the zoom shot take place at 12:00 p.m. Stockholm time on Tuesday, September 20. To join the Zoom event, click on the link below at this time.

Professor Heinemann will present during the session The heat is on! Diabetes and climate change: Wednesday, September 21, 2022, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., Salle Nobel


1. Klonoff DC, Heinemann L, Cook CB, Thompson BM, Kerr D, Han J, et al. Diabetes Technology Society Green Diabetes Initiative. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2020;14(3):507-12. doi: 10.1177/1932296820904175. PubMed PMID: 32019344.

2. Nguyen KT, Xu NY, Zhang JY, Shang T, DuBord AY, Heinemann L, et al. Diabetes Green Summit 2021. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2021;16(1):233-47. doi: 10.1177/19322968211049800.

3. Heinemann L, Krisiunas E. Diabetes technology and waste: a complex and accumulating problem! J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2019;13(5):815-6. Epub 2019/03/13. doi: 10.1177/1932296819836395. PubMed PMID: 30866677.

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