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Nursing home and home healthcare industries are in need of recycling and waste management programs due to the medical waste and disposal necessary for a properly run facility. Waste prevention eliminates waste before it is created.

“Sharps” and “Red bag” waste at nursing homes requires strict regulations that hospitals are aware of on a local, state and national level. “Red bag” material, which is specially handled and can be a high cost item for nursing homes, should always be managed as it has been in the past.

Nursing homes need a recycling program for the tenants.  The program should recover as many recyclables as possible. In most cases, tenants welcome the opportunity to recycle.

Recycling Tips

  • Set up a routine where nursing home staff evaluate personal care items for reuse (following infection control guidelines) instead of disposing them.
  • In the kitchen and cafeteria use non-disposable plates, utensils, and glassware. 
  • Set up a collection system, arrange to have items picked up for recycling, and educate staff.

These are items that are recycled in many nursing homes:

  • Corrugated cardboard
  • White office paper
  • Newspapers
  • Mixed paper
  • Beverage containers (aluminum cans, glass bottles)
  • Steel cans (used by food service)
  • Plastics (work with suppliers so goods are made from or packaged with same plastic resin so they are easier to recycle)
  • Newsprint
  • Bottles, cans and jars

Other considerations of a recycling program in a nursing home:

  • Determine where tenants leave their recyclable materials.
  • Coordinate recyclables collection with your regular trash collection.
  • The basement, storage facility or another common area should be designated for collection of the recyclables. 
  • Give tours to tenants and employees to show them where the recycling locations are.  Explain to them when the recyclable materials are picked up.
  • Educate residents and employees about the recycling procedures.
  • Include recycling information in your training materials.
  • Encourage families of residents and visitors to get involved in recycling.

Waste Reduction Tips

Follow a few steps when you dispose of contaminated materials and sharp objects.  By doing so, you can help prevent injury, illness, and pollution.

Fortunately, many waste prevention practices save money. Waste reduction, the combination of waste prevention and recycling efforts, makes sense for hospital nursing home staff and residents.

  • Lancets, sharps, needles, syringes and other sharp objects should be stored in metal containers with a tightly screwed on lid.  Containers specifically designed for disposing of sharps are readily available for purchase.
  • Before discarding a container, be sure to reinforce the lid with heavy-duty tape. Do not put sharp objects in any container you plan to recycle and do not use glass or clear plastic containers
  • Make sure that you keep all containers with sharp objects out of the reach of visitors such as children and/or pets.
  • Before disposing of medical gloves bandages, and sheets, they should be secured in plastic bags.
  • Renegotiate contracts with haulers of "red bag" or regulated medical waste to provide clean and reusable containers to the hospital. Again, “red bag” waste is subject to different regulations and should be not be treated as a recyclable material.
  • Buy most cleaning substances in bulk. Use concentrated cleaning solutions that staff can mix up as needed.
  • Set up an area where residents can pick up used items such as paper clips, plastic storage, coat hangers, etc. for reuse.

Encourage all staff and residents at the nursing home to get involved in recycling and waste management. Not only does it create a healthier living environment but it also makes the Earth a better and greener place.

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


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