One of the best parts of going to the doctor as a kid was the themed Band-Aid you got after getting a shot. (The shot itself? Not so fun.) Even though many of us have grown out of the cartoon characters and fun patterns, adults aren’t immune to boo-boos—we still use bandages all the time.
Whether you have a paper cut or you’re trying to prevent blisters on your ankles, Band-Aids are your go-to. When we’re done with them, we simply toss them in the trash without a second thought. But even though they help your injuries heal, they’re not healing the planet: Most options on store shelves contain materials that are anything but eco-friendly.
Here’s everything you need to know about the environmental impact of bandages and where to find sustainable swaps.
Are Band-Aids Eco-Friendly?
Most adhesive bandages are made of either plastic or a soft, flexible fabric with a cotton square that’s meant to cover your wounds. The underside of the adhesive strip contains a glue-like substance, usually an acrylic chemical, to ensure it sticks to your skin and protects your minor injury.
If your bandage box says the bandages are plastic, it usually means the adhesive sheet is made of PVC, polyethylene, or polyurethane. If the bandages are woven fabric, they could be made of a number of different fabrics, both natural and synthetic. Bandage fabrics may contain rayon and cotton, and sometimes, these fabrics are still woven with plastics or contain latex.
Not only do bandages contain unsustainable materials, but they’re also single-use and must be disposed of after use. That means non-biodegradable waste and potentially toxic chemicals get sent to landfills. When we send waste to landfills, it decomposes at slower rates and releases greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. These gases get trapped in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and climate change.
The thing about Band-Aids is that we can’t really avoid them. While we may have washable and reusable bandage wraps, we don’t have reusable bandages. Thus, we can’t avoid the waste that comes with bandages.
However, you can recycle the box your bandages come in. The cardboard box containing the adhesive strips can be recycled with paper waste. And when you recycle the box, you keep it out of the landfill.
If you’re looking for a way to decrease the amount of waste you produce, you’re in luck: biodegradable bandages are a great alternative that’s great for you and the planet.
What Are Biodegradable and Compostable Bandages?
Biodegradable bandages are exactly like your traditional adhesive bandages… except they’re made with organic, sustainable materials and ditch the harsh chemicals. So when these bandages get thrown away, they’ll decompose more naturally and have a lower impact.
For example, Patch’s biodegradable bandages, which are featured this month in the Brightly Shop, are made with organic bamboo fiber, coconut oil, and a hypoallergenic Pressure Sensitive Adhesive (PSA) gauze. They’re plastic-free, vegan, and because they avoid harsh chemicals, are also great for sensitive skin.
Also good news: Kids don’t have to say goodbye to those beloved prints. Patch also has Coconut Oil Kids Bamboo Bandages that are decorated with an adorable panda print. You can’t beat fun and planet-friendly.
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