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Medical waste is one of the most important types of waste management and reduction for the environment. Hospitals can significantly reduce their waste by combining waste prevention with a comprehensive recycling effort.

Hospitals also have different waste requirements than other types of industries. “Red bag” waste at a hospital requires strict regulations that hospitals are aware of on a local, state and national level. This material, which is specially handled and can be a high cost item for hospitals, should always be managed as it has been in the past.

Waste Reduction Tips 

Many waste prevention practices save money. Waste prevention, waste reduction and recycling, and the combination of all of these makes good sense for hospitals.

Understand what you buy, how you use what you buy and what you throw away.  Put this information to use to find ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.  Nonhazardous waste is 3/4 of the waste generated in hospitals, a substantial amount. 

Evaluate the largest part of the waste stream first. Paper is usually the largest part of the waste stream of a hospital. This would include cardboard, high-grade office paper, newspaper and mixed paper. Other highly generated recyclable materails in hospitals are plastics, food waste, and disposable linens (a combination of paper and other materials).

Some ideas to identify waste reduction opportunities at your hospital: 

Recycling Tips 

In addition to other considerations such as reducing waste, it should be a goal to screen or limit purchases for products to those that are made from recycled materials. The more consumers and businesses follow this philosophy the more it will create demand for recycled materials. Also, whenever possible and appropriate employees should be rewarded for their contributions to waste reduction efforts and ideas.   

These are items that are recycled in many hospitals:

White office paper

Corrugated cardboard

Mixed paper

Steel cans (used by food service)

Aluminum cans

Glass bottles

Hospital Case studies: plans in action

          Cost savings per year: $175,000

          Waste prevention in pounds per year: 34,000

                    Cost savings per year: $125

                    Waste prevention in pounds per year: 2,500

                    There was no adverse effect on patient or staff safety.

                    It decreased the amount of solid waste going to landfills.

                    Savings in purchasing costs per year: $80,710

                    Disposal savings per year: $817

                    Waste prevention in pounds per year: 16,350

Source: American Hospital Association, An Ounce of Prevention: Waste Reduction Strategies for Health Care Facilities (recommended by several recycling coordinators, includes waste prevention).

Recycling and waste management are important steps for hospital administration to consider and implement before it’s too late. These steps above give a proven cost-effective approach that helps both the business bottom line and the environment.


Contributor / Editor - Matt Kennedy - Refer questions to info@wastecare.com  

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