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

Coca-Cola sustainability report highlights PlantBottle usage

October 1, 2014 12:47 pm ET

Coca-Cola Co. has now distributed more than 25 billion PlantBottles since their introduction five years ago.    More

Image

OptiLedge taking Ikea's pallet replacement system to the next level

October 1, 2014 11:49 am ET

OptiLedge LLC is taking Ikea's plastic alternative to the traditional wooden pallet to the next level, making and marketing them globally.    More

Image

Houston Plastic continues to grow with new press, controlled production area

October 1, 2014 11:32 am ET

Custom injection molder Houston Plastic Products Corp. has extended its clamp tonnage range and added an environmentally controlled molding area.    More

Image

Brown signs California's plastic bag ban into law

September 30, 2014 1:38 pm ET

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) made it official today: plastic bags are banned across the entire state of California.    More

Image

Recycling group releases shrink sleeve label guidelines

September 26, 2014 4:02 pm ET

A post-consumer plastics recycling trade group is out with a set of recommendations to help guide the packaging industry on the use of shrink sleeve l...    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 million dollar plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our industry analysis highlights macro industry trends and micro trends faced by companies that do business in Mexico. The report also provides key industry statistics and forecasts to anticipate future industry expansion.

Learn more

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 Wood’s 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

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

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

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

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events