Is It Possible to Have a Zero Waste First Aid Kit?

Is It Possible to Have a Zero Waste First Aid Kit?
2 March 2023

Is It Possible to Have a Zero Waste First Aid Kit?

The little plastic sachets and wrappers in first aid kits can be a niggling worry for those concerned with waste. Even if you want to reduce your plastic waste to an absolute minimum, it’s difficult when it comes to first aid. Hygiene, sterility, and degradation of quality are all issues that need to be taken into account, as health and safety take precedence over everything.

In this article, we’ll look at whether it’s possible to make a zero-waste first aid kit, what considerations need to be made, and how to ensure you’ve always got provisions ready without producing too much non-recyclable waste.

Steroplast Healthcare are committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2035 when we plan to have reduced our emissions by 100%.
See our complete Carbon Reduction Commitment here.

What is a zero waste first aid kit?

A zero-waste first aid kit is one that produces no waste. Any ‘waste’ material (used or soiled items) in a zero-waste first aid kit should be reused (whether that’s through recycling, composting, or repurposing), rather than being sent to a landfill. 

Many people manage to live zero-waste or near-zero-waste lifestyles, ensuring the products they buy and use don’t contribute to harmful general waste streams that go to landfill. But when it comes to first aid, things are a bit more complicated.

Zero waste first aid must take into consideration the health and safety considerations that are so important when caring for an injured or unwell person. While sustainable practices are essential for the future of our planet, hygiene and safety must take paramount in a crisis. So, where do we stand with a zero-waste first aid kit?

Want to know about all-natural first aid kits? Read our article.

Safety Considerations and Materials Used

woman holding glass jar of ointment

We want to strive for less waste produced, less waste going to landfills, and more sustainable choices wherever possible. People who want to create zero-waste first aid kits might include the following items that have been recovered, repurposed, or reused. 

  • Honey
  • Aloe vera plants
  • Iodine and salves in glass bottles
  • Scraps of cotton or other natural fibres

But in a situation where someone has suffered an injury, it’s critically important their health is protected at all costs. You must make an informed decision about what to use when injured. We recommend thinking about the following three factors.

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Hygiene

Hygiene is the first thing you should think of preparing to treat a wound or injury. When administering first aid, you must keep yourself protected from potential infection and protect the casualty too.

Wounds must be thoroughly cleaned of dirt and bacteria before dressing them, and it’s important to use a physical barrier between yourself and the casualty when tending to them, so no body fluids come into direct contact with your skin.

If you plan to clean and reuse first aid items, you must maintain a high level of hygiene. Anything contaminated with body fluids should be disposed of to prevent cross-contamination. Don’t forget that even if something looks clean, it could still be harbouring bacteria, which leads to the next point.

Sterility

A step further than hygiene, sterilisation ensures that an item is completely 100% free of bacteria and harmful pathogens. Certain items, such as invasive medical devices and some dressings, must be sterile in healthcare.

The body is at a heightened risk of infection through an open wound where harmful infectious agents can pass into the body. Using a sterile dressing on a clean wound ensures you’re not introducing any new bacteria to the wound bed. 

Sterilising dressings made from fabric scraps found in some zero-waste first aid kits can come with complications. You don’t know how much bacteria these pieces of reclaimed fabric are harbouring. We can be confident the sterile dressings we provide in our sustainable first aid kit won’t be compromised until the packaging is broken because they are sterilised in their sealed packaging. The medical grade paper allows the sterilant to penetrate without degrading or breaking down the paper.

There’s no law on what items in your first aid kit should be sterile at home, but the Health and Safety Executive recommends that a workplace first aid kit contains sterile dressings and plasters. 

Read more about the responsibilities of businesses when it comes to safety and sustainability. 

Degradation of Quality

Use-by dates are an important factor when maintaining your first aid kit. We always advise our customers to check their first aid kit contents are in date before using them. This is also a requirement of the HSE when it comes to workplace first aid kits.

When products go past their use-by date… 

  • Wound dressings may deteriorate and they could be more weak, less absorbent, and more likely to come apart.
  • Alcohol-based wipes could dry out as their packaging gets old and becomes compromised.
  • Seals on wound wash and eyewash containers could be compromised and affect the sterility.

First aid supplies that are out of date need to be disposed of correctly. Find out how in our article How to Dispose of Used or Out of Date First Aid Supplies.

How close can we get to zero waste?

As a healthcare supplier, we know that the industry still has a ways to go to reach the levels of sustainability we need as a planet. So every action counts, and all responsible choices contribute to a brighter future. 

Our sustainable first aid kit was created as a key step towards providing more sustainable first-aid options. As a healthcare supplier, we can’t recommend a zero-waste first aid kit when some products must be made from certain materials and kept sterile or moist. While we work on reducing plastic waste in hospitals and healthcare, the safety of patients comes first.

How is plastic recycled in healthcare? What material replacements for plastic are there? Find out in our blog.

So, our sustainable first aid kit is the next best thing. We carefully designed it to use as little plastic as possible, containing only plastic where absolutely necessary. Instead of plastic wrappers to keep our dressing sterile, we use medical-grade paper, which can be recycled. Other items are wrapped in card rather than plastic.

Uniquely Sustainable in the UK
Eco-Friendly First Aid Range

Discover our selection of high-quality, eco-friendly first aid products. Packaged thoughtfully in recycled materials and designed with minimal plastic use.

ItemPackaging How to Dispose of
First Aid Emergency LeafletN/ARecycle in paper waste streams
Vinyl Gloves (pair)Paper wallet

Recycle wallet in paper waste streams.

Dispose of vinyl gloves in clinical waste if contaminated.

Washproof plastersCard wallet

Recycle card wallet in paper waste streams.

Dispose of plasters in clinical waste if contaminated.

Safety pins (pack)Pinned togetherSterilise and reuse.
Triangular bandageLoose paper wrap

Recycle paper wrap in paper waste streams.

Dispose of triangular bandages in clinical waste if contaminated. 

Uncontaminated triangular bandages can be sterilised and reused.

Alcohol-free wipesLaminate sachet

Dispose of wipes in clinical waste if contaminated and general waste if not. 

Dispose of laminate sachets in general waste.

Wound dressing (large)Paper packet

Recycle paper packets in paper waste streams.

Dispose of contaminated dressings in clinical waste and uncontaminated dressings in general waste.

Wound dressing (medium)Paper packet

Recycle paper packets in paper waste streams.

Dispose of contaminated dressings in clinical waste and uncontaminated dressings in general waste.

Wound dressing (eye pad)Paper packet

Recycle paper packets in paper waste streams.

Dispose of contaminated dressings in clinical waste and uncontaminated dressings in general waste.

Our kit comes stored in a hard-shell box made with 100% recycled PP/wood plastic compound that stands up to the test of time and can be used as your first aid box for years to come. Order recyclable first aid kit refills from us, too, to maintain a low-plastic kit. 

Order a recyclable first aid kit for just £29.95.

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