Viewpoint: Mother knows best

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My parents recently returned from Europe, heralding its wonders: the Italian hotel in which they stayed, and how the building had to be at least 500 years old; the German village in which my sister lives, and the rarity of the preserved architecture.

The one thing that really piqued my attention was something my mother said. “No matter where you ordered a cup of coffee or tea, it was served in a china cup and saucer, not a paper cup that just gets thrown away or ends up on the street.

This got me thinking. We indeed live in a wasteful society, but the contamination control industry and those close to it seem to be moving away from that throw-away mentality.

Most notable is single-use medical device reuse (see “Medical device reuse catches congressional eye,” Oct. 1999, p. 1). The battles that have embroiled the issue seem to have eclipsed a rather important philosophy—recycle, save money and decrease waste.

Other organizations are subscribing to this crucial value. Case-in-point: The Electrostatic Discharge Association (Rome, NY) and the American Standards Institute (ANSI; New York) are taking steps to establish an ESD-control program. Once that is accomplished, the organizations will ask International Organization for Standardization-certified auditors to conduct the inspection along with ISO 9000 audits. (See “Wanted: ISO auditors for ESD control program,

There's nothing like killing two birds with one stone. Plus, ESD is a critical issue in cleanrooms, and any steps to control it should be embraced. Not only will this measure meet the requests of companies and contractors alike, but establishing this type of program will mean increased productivity, a decrease in defects, fewer trips to the scrap heap and, most of all, less waste.

Other organizations, like online auctioneer and virtual marketplace, are two examples of how surplus liquidators are now expanding their businesses to the Web, a sort of “e-Bay” or “Wal-MartO for equipment used in everything from biotechnology to medical to pharmaceutical to semiconductor manufacturing. (See story, pg. 1). For some, it turns their used equipment into cash. For others it provides a worldwide-accessible bargain basement, where it is quite possible to find things at huge discounts. Bottom line: Money is saved and older equipment is put to new use.

Let's face it, a lot of money is spent and a lot of waste is generated by the contamination control industry. Economizing and conserving steps, like those mentioned above, make any industry stronger and more efficient. Some efforts, like the single-use medical device issue, are tough to tackle, but there are other adjustments, like the ANSI/ESD effort, that have the potential to make great, significant changes.

So maybe you've never thought about it. In any case, let me remind you of what many mothers would say in this situation, “Waste not want not.

Mark A. DeSorbo
Associate Editor


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