Emily Baker

Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health


Background In 2015, 24 plastic production facilities in the United States produced 17.5 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e-), which is the same as what 3.8 million cars produced that year (Hamilton 2019). The incineration (controlled burning) of this plastic in 2015 emitted approximately 5.9 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e-) (Hamilton 2019). CO2e- is a measure for comparing greenhouse gases to carbon dioxide, by multiplying the amount produced by their global warming potential (Brander 2012). Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the planet over time, some are naturally occurring, and some are synthetic. The naturally occurring gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor, and fluorinated gases are synthetic (Denchak 2019). The global warming created can have many disastrous effects on human health. Healthcare waste contributes to 10% of greenhouse gas production in the United States (Hsu, et al. 2020). In the medical field, billions of pounds of medical supplies are discarded yearly. Although some of these items are used and cannot be used again, many are unused or even expired. Many of these items are made up of mostly plastic. A life cycle analysis is an evaluation method defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “a method used to evaluate the environmental impact of a product through its life cycle encompassing extraction and processing of the raw materials, manufacturing, distribution, use, recycling, and final disposal” (Hill 2013). This method can be used to calculate and compare emissions saved or produced throughout the entire life of the product, in addition to other impacts such as energy consumption, land use, or cost.



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