Meet the Brand Taking On the Pharmaceutical Industry’s Single-Use Plastic Problem

Photo: W+G Creative
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There's an infamous statistic that the average American consumes a credit card's worth (five grams) of microplastics every week. Now, it's not entirely clear just how accurate that stat is. But two things are definitely true: 1. We're eating and breathing in more microplastics than any human probably wants to, and 2. It's clear that we have a major plastic waste problem in this country.

The good news? It seems like each year people are becoming more and more aware of how pervasive this issue is, and smart leaders are coming up with solutions that could help us cut it down.

In her research for Well+Good's upcoming Climate Issue, lifestyle editor Erica Sloan got to know an innovative new brand called Cabinet Health that is tackling the pharmaceutical industry's single-use plastic waste problem in particular. For the most recent episode of the Well+Good podcast, our director of podcasts Taylor Camille was able to sit down with the founders, Achal Patel and Russell Gong, and talk to them about how their idea to create reusable packaging for over-the-counter medicines became a reality—including an appearance on Shark Tank earlier this year.

single use plastic
Photo: W+G Creative

Why focus specifically on medicine packaging? The use of plastic in the healthcare sector has increased significantly in recent years: According to the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, the US healthcare system generates 14,000 tons of waste daily, and 20 to 25 percent of that is plastic. What's more: 91 percent of that plastic is not recycled.

Cabinet Health offers reusable glass containers for over-the-counter drugs—like acetominophen or lactase enzyme—that can be refilled. Each container comes with a magnetic label for the top that includes the details you need about your medicine, and you can purchase additional refill packs whenever you need more, rather than buying a whole new bottle. This alternative is meant to cut down on the reported 194 billion plastic medicine bottles produced every year.

Sloan points out that medicine is one part of our lives in which most of us rarely think twice about the plastic we go through. "I think most people just take over-the-counter drugs, even prescriptions, and aren't really thinking about the eco impact of those bottles or where they're going because those drugs are something that you need to take, so it's not really a thing that's on your mind," says Sloan.

Yet those bottles we go through can be a significant contributor to pollution and harm the environment, wildlife, and human health. To learn more about Sloan's reporting on microplastics and Cabinet Health, check out this week's episode of the podcast:

All April long at Well+Good, we are celebrating Earth Month and organizations, brands, and founders that walk the walk and talk the talk when it comes to fighting climate change and caring for our planet. So stay tuned for more.

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