The answer to the question above is for most a resounding “NO”… but for the US’s bloated medical industry, this is not the case. Many products that have no logical explanation for an expiration date, including wooden tongue depressors, are thrown away every year. Often these products are in dire need in other countries… so it is no wonder why our country has the highest cost per patient for healthcare of any country in the world. The unfortunate truth is that it is illegal here to repurpose medical products, even if they have not been used. Worse yet, these products end up in landfills only polluting the world more. Now, an organization called MedWish has set out to find a solution to this problem.
Founded in 1993 by Dr. Lee Ponsky, MedWish International takes discarded supplies and equipment to developing countries with the objective to provide humanitarian aid while reducing solid waste in our environment. The obvious things like syringes, bandages and medicines all come to mind for a project like this. More interestingly though, often equipment that is in perfect working order ends up thrown away, because our legislation will not allow it to be reused under any circumstances. So items like microscopes, ultrasounds and more end up in the trash pile instead of in the hands of doctors around the world.
So far, MedWish has managed to keep 2.2 million pounds of medical waste out of landfills. The map above shows the 42 countries they have served so far. While it is a good thing for Americans to reduce the amount of waste heading toward the landfills, it is a miracle for those who are receiving the shipments. MedWish is the perfect example of the kind of innovation the world needs to assure that our increasing population can have improved living conditions while resources become more scarce. See the MedWish video’s below, then listen to this Freakonomics Podcast interview to hear more.