Environmental impact of insulin pumps

Dear all,

I have been using Omnipod insulin “pods” for 7 years, and thought that I was recycling the used pods, at least to some extent, by sending them back to Omnipod with an envelope provided. I just found out that instead Omnipod was disposing of them for our “benefit”, and that now we can just throw them in the trash ourselves.

I cannot in all conscience contribute to the amount of trash and plastics in our environment (whether at the landfill or not) by throwing away a full insulin “pod”–with battery, transmitter, plastic and all–every 3 days.

Has anyone done any research as to which other “non-pod” insulin pumps are most environmentally friendly, if any?

Thank you.

You could just get glass syringes and boil them, like we used to do in the good old days.


I’m not to sure on this one. I have usually just done the “trade-in” option. But I did have one that I did out in our community twice a year hazardous waste option. Not sure what other options people might have who don’t have this hazardous waste drop off. If you find out more, I’d like to know also.

I think this is a legitimate question and concern, although I don’t have an answer based in experience for you! I do, however, have some general knowledge about the actual recycling part of things:

  • You can take the electronic component of the pump to an electronics recycling facility (usually at a city or county landfill, or a contracting recycling facility with a municipality). They won’t actually recycle it, they’ll send it to China where the useful bits will be stripped out (metals, etc.) and the rest will be landfilled there rather than here. Is that a good thing? Nope, but the truth is 99% of electronics recycling is about reclaiming valuable metals for re-use, and the rest is done in a pretty nasty manner (from both environmental and human health perspectives).
  • You almost certainly can’t recycle the tubing and insertion sets, for two reasons. First, the materials are not made to be recycled. Second, because they are considered medical waste, any disposal facility will treat them as contaminated. No recycling of contaminated materials (in the U.S. at least).

So, for me the option would be to recycle the electronics as best we can at the moment (which isn’t good), and then to take the tubing and insertion sets to a medical waste facility which accepts household items. You can also take other sharps from the diabetic process. Most hospitals have repositories for such materials. They won’t recycle them, but they will almost certainly incinerate them, which is (in my opinion) better than land-filling them from an environmental perspective.


I share your concerns with the OmniPod and other like pumps.

I’m not sure there is any truly environmentally-friendy pump. All pumps have infusion sets and tubing and all the plastic these things are packaged in that can’t be recycled.

Of the current pumps, I’d think the Medtronic would use the least “bits” since the other two pumps have separate cartridge-filling needles and cartridges, while this is all-in-one in the Medtronic. So it’s a tiny bit less plastic to throw away every few days.

Overall, I try to be environmentally-friendly in other ways. I don’t use plastic bags, plastic wrap, plastic pop cans, or bottled water, and I recyle and compost everything I can (to the point of carrying an apple core around all day in a tissue till I find somewhere to compose it).

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Ironically I was just about to make a post about burning needles in trash piles fueled buy used tires

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Sam’s attempt at humor aside. The desire to be environmentally friendly is admirable and I try to be in my daily life but I draw the line at my health. I can forgive myself if it means better health and there is no other way.

In your situation I would search for an alternative that is morally acceptable to me but I would not deprive myself of the best care possible. To do so would be unacceptable to me.


Thank you all for your replies. Indeed, short of using glass syringes and nothing else, it is a matter of compromise. I will check Medtronic and/or other manufacturers and look for non single-use “inserters” for the infusion sets (even if the tubing/needles in the infusion sets are). I also currently use a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor, for which the sensor “inserter” piece is attached and thus single-use–that is not necessary.

Can’t you just insert it manually? Like with these types:


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Impact? I couldn’t care less.