Hospitals can save by reducing waste, increasing recycling

Jeremy Carroll

Published: December 12, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Sustainability, Medical, 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

Some medical devices could get faster approval with new FDA rules

April 22, 2014 7:41 pm ET

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing an expedited approval for medical devices for devices aimed at the diagnosis or treatment of...    More

Image

Two Ohio groups team up to accelerate development of future medical devices

April 22, 2014 9:55 am ET

The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron and Cleveland-based design specialists Nottingham Spirk announced a strategic partnership that the two...    More

Image

Coffee roaster looks to improve footprint of single cup systems

April 22, 2014 1:30 pm ET

One of the largest coffee and tea manufacturers in North America has introduced a single-serve beverage capsule intended to curb the waste created by ...    More

Two Eastman buildings among 10 biggest energy savers in national contest

April 22, 2014 11:35 am ET

Two offices at the headquarters of Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Tenn., ranked in the Top 10 for energy efficiency in the latest Energy Star...    More

Europe's bag use still expected to climb despite possible bag restrictions

April 22, 2014 9:29 am ET

Ceresana, a Germany-based research company, has released a report forecasting that by 2020 the sales volume of bags and sacks in Europe will reach 9.1...    More

Market Reports

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report provides analysis and discussions of economic and political conditions, market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies. In addition, there are reviews of 25 leading thermoformers in the packaging segment, assessing their growth initiatives and performance metrics over 10 years.

Learn more

Automotive Market Review and Outlook 2014 The Americas

This 75-page report features in-depth analysis of the automotive industry for the Americas. It includes discussions of market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting production and threats as well as design strategies being implemented by the major automakers. Detailed charts and data tables outline North American automotive production over the last five years.

Learn more

Plastics Building & Construction Market Review and Outlook 2014 with MS Excel chart data

This report provides in-depth analysis of the plastic building and construction market for North America, including discussions of trends, opportunities, threats and the latest developments in construction trends that impact plastics processors.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

May 6, 2014 - May 8, 2014Plastics in Medical Devices 2014

May 12, 2014 - May 12, 2014Plastics News Brazil Pharma Summit

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 3, 2015 - February 7, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events