Being eco-friendly or environmentally friendly is becoming more and more important. The simplest way to define what being eco-friendly means is to say that it is the act of living with intent. The intent is focused on not creating harm to the environment, and preventing as much harm from occurring to the environment through your interactions with it.
Being eco-friendly goes far beyond just turning off lights when you leave the room or separating your waste for recycling – it is about changing the purpose of how you live.
Sadly, it is difficult to be 100% environmentally friendly in the acupuncture industry as all acupuncture needles, metal or plastic, cannot be recycled and must be destroyed by incineration via a sharps disposal service. Currently, there are more than 5 billion single disposable acupuncture needles used globally every year creating tons of plastic and metal are used every year to produce acupuncture needles and as they are single-use products, there is lots of waste. So, is there an effective, sustainable solution?
Bamboo Guide Tubes
Recently, bamboo guide tubes have been introduced onto the market as a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to plastic guide tubes. Although bamboo tubes do reduce the amount of plastic used, they are not as sustainable as they may seem.
Bamboo is a suitable biodegradable and compostable alternative, but it also requires a potentially harmful manufacturing process, especially to get the raw material to the desired shape and size of the end-product. Bamboo is woody ringed stems, known as culms, and is typically a hollow rhizome with branches. To produce guide tubes for acupuncture needles, the natural plant must go through rigorous manufacturing and production to ensure it is the correct shape and size for needling. As the bamboo is manufactured, there will be the addition of a glue/binder to ensure the plant keeps its shape. The binder, and any other additives used, may prevent the tubes from being biodegradable.
Furthermore, even pure bamboo can’t always decompose naturally and it can only be broken down effectively if it is disposed of correctly. There’s a high risk of cross-contamination when these products end up in recycling facilities. This cross-contamination can impact the recyclability of other products and result in even more waste than intended.
Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, however, it can take up to 3 to 5 years for bamboo to fully mature and become established to produce bamboo shoots which may affect production time and wildlife. As bamboo is becoming so popular, many native hardwood forests are being ploughed down to grow bamboo. This may destroy the native wildlife that grows in those areas since they cannot survive in a bamboo forest. When using bamboo as a plastic alternative, it is imperative to ensure the plan is sustainably harvested. We must balance the damage we are causing to our planet, our natural habitat and our health.
To conclude, bamboo guide tubes do offer an alternative solution to plastic but unfortunately, they are not fully sustainable. Since 2019, we have been working with our factories to find a complete solution, that is cost-effective and eco-friendly. As we produce our own needles, we are at an advantage as we control the manufacturing process and understand the industry requirements but finding a suitable alternative is not a quick or easy process.
Although we understand the importance of being sustainable, we also must prioritise patient safety first and foremost. Until we can offer a fully sustainable and safe option, we do not want to commit to an alternative.
In the meantime, if you are looking for an eco-friendly alternative, we recommend acupuncturists go without guide tubes or use less plastic with our 5 in 1 or 10 in 1 format to help reduce waste in their clinic. Additionally, practitioners can try using one guide tube per patient to reduce the amount of waste further.
We are working tirelessly to make Phoenix products as eco-friendly as possible and we will endeavour to continue this journey, ensuring we update our customers throughout each stage. If you have any questions regarding any of the mentioned information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.