Hospitals can save by reducing waste, increasing recycling

Jeremy Carroll

Published: December 12, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Medical, Sustainability, Recycling

CHICAGO (Dec. 12, 10:50 a.m. ET) — Recycling and reducing common wasteful practices can save hospitals money — lots of it, according to a recently released study.

Susan Kaplan, research assistant professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago’s school of public health, was the lead author of the report, which says the industry as a whole could save $5.4 billion in five years and up to $15 billion in 10 years if it adopts sustainable practices.

The study considered several hospitals that recently went through various sustainable measures and extrapolated their findings out to the general hospital and health care system.

Among the areas for potential savings, according to the study: reduce medical waste through better segregation; reduce landfilled waste through recycling; more efficient purchase of operating room supplies; and the switch to reprocessed devices in the operating room over single-use devices.

Among the simple waste reduction efforts, the hospitals studied showed a range of 50 cents per patient per day in savings to more than $2.50 per patient per day. Changes in the operating room were as high as $57 per operation.

“We had seen some anecdotal evidence that was very suggestive and showed potentially some very significant [cost savings in a more sustainable model],” Kaplan said.

Many of the changes, promoted by Practice Greenhealth, Health Care Without Harm and the Healthier Hospital Initiative are very inexpensive to implement, Kaplan said.

“Many of them have virtually no upfront costs,” she said. “To us, that was one of the most interesting findings.”

Often hospital employees throw regular waste together with the regulated medical waste, often referred to as red bag waste. The cost of disposal of medical waste is much higher than regular waste, so adding unnecessary waste can skyrocket costs.

Simply educating employees on what is proper medical waste and what can be disposed in the solid waste stream could lead to big savings, Kaplan said.

“My impression is that perhaps there’s a lack of awareness,” Kaplan said as to why that practice seems common. “It seemed like the major intervention here was staff intervention and education about segregating in the right waste streams.”

Operating rooms are often a place where small sustainable practices can lead to big savings too, according to the study. Many operating rooms are fraught with one-time-use devices that are tossed after the surgery, but there are multi-use products available.

Cardiac catheters, orthopedic surgical blades and ultrasound catheters are among the items that can be easily reprocessed.

“They are minimum costs to the hospital with cost savings beginning immediately,” Kaplan said.

Blair Sadler, senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, one of the authors of the study and former CEO of Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego, Calif., said the idea of saving money though environmental sustainability efforts is no longer theoretical.

“I was struck by the significant evidence and experience that is now out there,” he said. “You can really make a difference in sustainability that improves health care quality and improves the financial bottom line. It’s no longer a debate, it’s a matter of understanding it, accepting it and deciding which of the variety of strategies or tactics that you want to employ.”

Kaplan said for a sustainability program to be successful, there has to be a buy-in from management all the way down to employees.

“Any hospital can start implementing the program. The information on how to get started is out there,” she said. “But the culture of commitment can really make a difference.”


Comments

Hospitals can save by reducing waste, increasing recycling

Jeremy Carroll

Published: December 12, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Minnesota receives grant to help develop new bioplastics

September 17, 2014 4:08 pm ET

The University of Minnesota has received a $20 million grant to fund the development of new types of bioplastics.    More

Image

ACI expanding in South Carolina

September 17, 2014 12:56 pm ET

Reprocessor and recycler ACI Plastics Inc. is expanding in South Carolina.    More

Image

Symphony Environmental defends biodegradable plastics in recycling stream

September 17, 2014 11:47 am ET

Symphony Environmental Technologies plc, one of the world's largest oxo-biodegradable technology companies, has responded to a leading Mexican...    More

Image

On-line tool aims to increase recycling through common language

September 17, 2014 12:32 pm ET

A new online tool is out to get everybody speaking the same language when it comes to plastics recycling.    More

Image

Tiny plastics swim in Australian waters

September 17, 2014 11:16 am ET

A University of Western Australia marine scientist has found the sea's surface in Australian waters is contaminated by more than 4,000 pieces of tiny ...    More

Market Reports

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Woods economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events