Doc to Dock

Just wanted to take a moment out of my busy (?) workday to post a quick plug for a local charity organization that I’ve worked with a couple of times called Doc to Dock. Check out their site!

The idea is simple: During surgery, doctors open up huge bags of sterile medical supplies but typically use only a small number of them. The rest of the stuff, which is all packed in kits and individually wrapped and thus sterile, must be thrown away. (Then of course all of this crap, most of it plastic, goes either to the landfill or to the incinerator.)

That’s the law! Because of it, hospitals in America waste thousands of tons of brand new medical supplies per day. I posit that the point of said law is not to protect us from some looming public health risk, but rather to artificially boost sales for medical supply companies. (And in turn their suppliers, the plastics industry. And what does plastic come from? Oil!) We need to re-evaluate the conventional economic wisdom that production and consumption growth are always good — the late great Galbraith had a point.

Anyway, Doc to Dock works with hospitals to establish a recycling system so that unused medical supplies, still in mint condition, can be donated. Then Doc to Dock employs volunteer laborers (like myself) to sort the supplies, then ships them to hospitals in Africa where said supplies are desperately needed. So it’s good work! If you live in Brooklyn, you should go down there and help some time. They are cool.

For good measure:

Medical supply companies and their corporate parents are getting what amounts to a subsidy for overproduction — hospitals are required to buy more than they need. This boosts our GDP (yay!) but is not good for consumers. Put yourself in the producer’s shoes: Why bother trying to compete for a hypothetical African market when you’ve got a permanent customer in your pocket?

Tyco, known to all of us as the friendly purveyors of toy trucks and electrical equipment, is also the world’s fourth largest medical supply company. So they’re reaping the rewards of this arrangement; indeed Tyco executives are notoriously greedy. And they have no qualms evading local labor laws in Latin America (as when they were requiring female workers in Mexico to submit to pregnancy testing.) Love those toy trucks though!


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