In this final entry in our 6-part series on hospital sustainability, we will discuss food, chemicals, commuting, pest management, recycling “blue wrap” and “single stream” recycling.
Here are links to the previous five parts in the series:
- Green Team and Mercury Elimination
- DEHP Elimination and Green Hospital Initiative
- Red Bag Waste Reduction
- Environmentally Preferable Purchasing and Reprocessed Medical Devices
- Energy Conservation and Other Conservation Techniques
Green Medical Center’s cafeteria offers sustainable food options (e.g. bovine growth hormone-free milks and meats, local organically grown produce). They sell seasonal organic fruits and vegetables from local farms including apples, broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, radishes, green beans, hormone-free milk and fair trade coffee. The Women’s Health & Environmental Network (WHEN) offers a free download of sustainable recipes for healthcare here.
The hospital eliminated toxic cleaning chemicals in favor of environmentally safer alternatives. Benefits of using “green chemicals” are safer disposal, reduced liability and improved health for employees, patients and visitors. Many green products are less costly, too.
Green Medical Center employs about 7,000 individuals and most commute from home to work by car. Employers can promote a ride board to encourage carpooling or they can offer discounted bus and train passes to advance public transportation. Another simple thing is to make bike racks available for cyclists.
Integrated Pest Control
Less toxic pesticides are used at Green Medical Center. The hospital does not use pesticides classified as or containing: EPA toxicity I or II requiring a danger or warning label, developmental or reproductive toxicants, known or suspected carcinogens, neurotoxin inhibitors, groundwater contaminants, nervous system toxicants, endocrine disruptors or wildlife toxicants.
Recycling Blue Wrap
Green Medical Center does not currently recycle their blue wrap, a polypropylene #5 plastic, however, that may be a future improvement at the hospital. Blue wrap is a strong material resistant to moisture, tearing and an effective barrier to contamination. The Operating Room (OR) generates about 50 tons of blue wrap waste per year or approximately 25% of their waste. Prior to waste segregation, the OR disposed of blue wrap as red bag waste and paid about $20,000 per year in disposal costs. After source separation in the OR, blue wrap is now considered municipal waste and costs only $1,250 per year for disposal. Blue wrap is not biodegradable. If it were diverted from the waste stream, it could be recycled and the hospital would earn a modest profit from a plastics recycler and remove it from the waste stream.
“Single-Stream” Recycling as a Future Option?
Single stream recycling is a system where all municipal “waste” is mixed together in a single collection and not sorted into paper, cardboard, plastic, and glass. In single stream recycling, both the collection and processing systems are designed to handle a fully commingled mixture of recyclables. The advantages include reduced sorting, fewer trucks, fleet flexibility, reduced transportation, automated collection, reduced collection costs, increased recycling and less time spent on recycling. The disadvantages are that food waste must be separated from the other materials. Employees, patients and visitors must be educated on the process and currently no single-stream recyclers exist in the local area.
Green Medical Center is currently reviewing the full spectrum of possibilities for improving the sustainability of the hospital.
We hope you have enjoyed this series on hospital sustainability. Come back soon for a questionnaire to be posted on our blog, EES Essential Elements, related to sustainability practices at your institution. And, as always, we’re looking for comments on our posts to get conversations started.