STOP PRESS. EXCITING UPDATE HERE 19/06/2018: Everything About These Zero Waste Bandages Is Compostable
I’m all for cleaning small cuts and grazes with mild soap and water and leaving them to heal uncovered. But sometimes further protection helps the healing process, for example when working in soil or when wearing shoes over painful blisters. In these instances, most people reach for a packet of plastic band-aids from the medicine cabinet and later toss the used band-aids in the bin. That’s if the band-aids haven’t already fallen off somewhere unnoticed like the playground or swimming pool. So, I’ve been thinking about ways to prevent this plastic waste from ending up in our environment and to avoid using the plastic in the first place.
As I always do, I asked myself “do I already have something I can use?” And of course I do. I have heaps of scrap cotton fabric that can be cut to size and either knotted around a body part or secured with a reusable rubber band, bit of surgical paper tape or biodegradable string (or cellophane tape if you have some). I could also directly apply the surgical tape without the cloth in some instances. All of these things are compostable (except the band), but I am going to wash and reuse the cloths too.
To make things easy when I have a child screaming in pain and demanding I fix the problem IMMEDIATELY, I’ve filled a jar with fabric cut to different sizes and popped in some rubber bands, a roll of surgical tape and small scissors from our first aid kit. Going through our first aid kit made me realise there is a lot in there I could use up before I ever consider buying new products. A lot of it is wrapped in plastic but surgical tape is one thing I’m pretty sure never was. However, when I looked into buying it separately from St Johns Ambulance, I found it comes in a plastic bag, so I think we’ll be using alternatives when we run out.
The other thing I already have which can be turned into a band-aid is kombucha SCOBY. Just dry it out, cut to size and apply. Check out the full process here. I found it sticks to itself really well but I’d obviously have to have a supply of dried SCOBYs stored somewhere. Kombucha Kamp says the pH of the culture inhibits the growth of harmful organisms which is a bonus. And of course, it can go in the compost after use.
So that’s solved band-aids for my family for now but I have come across two other options which may interest you. The first is using the leaves from the Lambs Ear plant which is outlined here by The Society Co. And the second is a biodegradable bandages from the Melbourne based social enterprise, Everyday Good Co. If scraps of cloth and kombucha SCOBY band-aids don’t work out for us, I will probably use this product. They sound pretty good for anyone who just wants to use a typical band-aid. After receiving an email from the company Director, Cassandra Carbone, introducing the product, I queried it’s biodegradability and she said she has certification from the supplier and that she is hoping to test it herself next year. So, these band-aids should break down into pieces within two years and then biodegrade completely in around four years. They’re also made from 15% recycled materials and the packaging is made from 100% recycled material. Lastly, fifty percent of the profits go to The Hunger Project Australia.
I’d love to hear your thoughts or if you have any more ideas for replacing plastic band-aids. Maybe you have questions about these biodegradable bandages, let me know.
Another excellent plastic-free alternative – thanks! Was wondering if the soft outer paperbark from some tea trees could be used as a protective cover for a day or so – fixed with the medical tape.
I also like the old full finger cover with strings to tie around the wrist – made of cloth. A little more obvious and cumbersome but keeps a cut finger clean.
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Thanks Jill. I think paperbark would work. I like that idea. Sounds like the old full finger cover would do the job too!
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I go through heaps of band aids as my dodgy hands are always getting into trouble. I thought about this today when I had to don a rubber glove while cooking and yesterday while painting. I had 3 band aids on in various spots from different injury/blisters. It was more to prevent stinging and pain to me rather than worrying about contamination. Interested to keep following what improvements develop as to options.
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Soft paperbark held in place with a length of spider silk is the traditional bush bandaid, according to Clarence Slockee, Aboriginal Education Officer at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens. When I did his tour at the gardens many years ago, we used the silk from a golden orb weaver’s web. I makes a beautiful bandaid!
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Love this method, thank you for adding it. Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge is such a valuable resource that we should tap into more often.
Love this idea. Houseful of kids we go through so many. Thanks
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No problem Roni.
Two other thoughts –
First, I’ve heard the inner membrane of an egg shell can be used as a bandage. I’ve never tried it for a cut, but it does stick to itself and dries nicely.
Second, I know in old fiction books they talk about using “plaster”, any idea what that would be?
Thanks Kenna. Interesting, I’ve never heard of the egg idea but I can see how it could work. I’ve only heard of ‘plaster’ being used as an alternative name for a band-aid. 🤷🏻♀️