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Say "I Do" to Material Recovery

Bella_HUMCBy Deirdre Imus, 4-20-2017
For better or for worse, the bride’s dress is often what people remember most about a wedding.  Was it white, or off-white? Short, long, or really long? Lace, satin, or Tyvek?

Maybe you’ve never heard of a Tyvek dress. I hadn’t either until I met Bella the Bride

Bella is a creation of Beacon Converters, a sterilization packaging manufacturer for the medical device, food, and pharmaceutical industries. She is not so much a bride as she is a representation of what sustainability could look like in the healthcare industry, and beyond.

Artist and environmental educator Nancy Judd of Recycle Runway  made Bella, who is a mannequin dolled up in a stylish white dress made entirely from the aforementioned Tyvek, which is a high-density polyethylene plastic. It has many uses, including as building protection during construction, sterile medical packaging, and cargo covering.

Until now, it has never been used as a wedding dress. Bella is the first – and probably only – bride who will ever don a Tyvek gown, but its message is more important than its function. She draws attention to the need for more sustainability in the medical field, where materials are frequently discarded after just one use.

But Bella encourages the healthcare industry to think outside the box. Tyvek is very capable of being recovered or recycled for repurposing into other plastic products, and Bella’s uniquely designed dress and its accessories (Tyvek flower bouquets!) show why thinking outside the box on sustainability is essential in healthcare and any other field.

Sometimes we need to see sustainability in action to understand how it works, and why it is necessary. Hackensack University Medical Center, which houses The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®, will host Bella this Thursday and Friday (April 20 and 21) in honor of Earth Day. Anyone who wants to see environmentalism in action and understand the role of innovation in sustainability can swing by the lobby of our amazing hospital to see Bella. There will also be a bridal processional led by children in the hospital’s Child Care and Learning Center, complete with bouquets, bowties, crowns and flower petals made from repurposed medical sterilization wrap. 

States, cities, and local communities need to serve their citizens by encouraging recycling and sustainability at every turn. Recycling and compost bins should be on street corners alongside trash cans, so that people don’t even have to think about it – recycling becomes reflexive.

So much of sustainability is personal responsibility, and feeling a connection to this planet and its future. We are all in this together, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Like a marriage, our relationship to the Earth should not be conditional, but deeply-rooted in mutual respect and love – and constantly evolving.  

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