According to Practice Greenhealth, the premier US organization for healthcare sustainability, hospitals in the US produce almost 6 billion tons of waste annually, or 33 pounds per bed per day. So, how does a large academic medical system like Emory Healthcare tackle the challenge of going green? Here are just a few ways we’re working toward our goal:
- By 2015, Emory Healthcare and Emory University aim to divert landfill waste by 65 percent through sophisticated recycling and composting programs, starting in the operating rooms (ORs) and other patient care areas. Emory University Hospital Midtown kicked off the recycling program in May, with Emory University Hospital joining the program during the summer. Medical technology company Stryker has placed bins in every operating room to collect used medical equipment. Equipment being collected includes laparoscopic devices, arthroscopic/orthopaedic devices (at EUHM) and energy devices. Those devices will be taken to a facility in Florida for recycling. Stericycle, a medical and hazardous waste company, will collect all clean plastic containers, clean plastic wrap, and clean cardboard boxes, many of which package surgical and sterile medical equipment, for recycling. Stericycle has also partnered with EUHM’s Environmental Services team to collect recyclable plastic, aluminum, glass, and paper from common spaces such as waiting rooms, lobbies and administrative spaces. Educational efforts on what to recycle and what to place in regulated medical waste bins are ongoing.
- Since 2007, Emory Healthcare has partnered with MedShare, an international, non-profit organization that sends surplus medical supplies to underserved hospitals and clinics. Emory Healthcare donates unused, unexpired supplies to MedShare, as well as equipment that is no longer in use. Emory Healthcare collected 159,000 pounds of supplies for MedShare in 2012 alone.
- Emory Johns Creek Hospital is working with Stryker to collect used surgical equipment for recycling.
- At Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, medical waste reduction is accomplished with the help of a machine called a Chem Clav, which sterilizes and converts medical waste to landfill waste. Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital is the only hospital within the Emory Healthcare system to have its own waste conversion system on site. This technology has been used at the hospital for 18 years.
- Emory University Hospital Midtown and Emory University Hospital have joined the Healthier Hospitals Initiative’s Less Waste Challenge, a challenge to reduce regulated medical waste, increase recycling rates and increase construction and demolition waste recycling. These two hospitals join dozens of others across the country to “green” their operations. Healthier Hospitals Initiatives is a program developed out of collaboration between 12 of the nation’s largest and most influential health systems and Health Care Without Harm, the Center for Health Design and Practice Greenhealth.