Taking Care of Our Own:
Haste Makes Waste
Some reminders on how to save the planet and cut costs through the Health System’s waste disposal and recycling program
By Dave Tyler
Waste management and recycling coordinator, Facilities Services
Think of how much trash you generate at your own home, and the efforts you personally take to use, reuse and recycle waste. Now apply that to the entire Health System.
In addition to everyday garbage - like food wrappers, paper products, empty cups and the like - we have confidential papers, cardboard boxes, batteries, construction materials, electronic equipment and plastic containers and bags. I haven’t even mentioned regulated medical waste – things like sharps, suction canister liners, tubing containing blood and plevravacs. And, we can’t forget hazardous waste that is disposed of in sealed buckets and shipped to proper disposal centers.
Most employees probably don’t realize just how much is happening on a daily basis to properly remove waste from the Health System. We’re a world leader in recycling and seen by many as an example of best practices when it comes to innovative systems and processes. We recycled nearly 5 million pounds of waste in 2008 alone. It is my job to be concerned about the environmental impact of the waste coming out of the Health System. And now, during the tight economic times, it is more important than ever to conserve resources.
Here are a few things to remember:
Red bags are for biohazard waste only, yet it’s estimated that 97 percent of items found in red bags could go in the regular trash. A regular clear bag costs a mere 12 cents, compared to the 47-52 cents for a red bag. Considering we spend around $500,000 on red bags alone each year, using them properly could save a lot. The next time you thinking about throwing that empty pizza box into a red bag because it’s closer, please reconsider.
Chemotherapy waste buckets are for chemotherapy waste only. These are treated as hazardous waste and picked up each week for proper disposal. The bucket alone costs $8.12 and weighs over three pounds. Disposal cost is $2.50 per kilo. Do not throw empty syringes or butterfly needles into these buckets. We can save over $100,000 per year simply by monitoring items before they are placed into the bucket. Buckets must be labeled with the unit name and the date the waste collection started.
Confidential paper bins can accept ANY kind of paper. If other items containing plastics, such as x-rays, DVDs, computer discs, and tapes containing patient information, are put into paper bins, these items are pulled and end up in a landfill. This breaks the cycle of ensuring patient confidentiality. Contact me to set up a process to properly dispose of these items with out contaminating your paper recycling.
Surgical equipment should NOT be discarded in sharps containers. Be careful what you throw away – it’s estimated that we order around 300 pair of surgical scissors per week at a cost of $12 each. Surgical equipment routinely disappears because it is thrown away.
Inside View Editorial Advisory Group
Constance Bridges, Office of the Dean, Medical School
Paula Greeno, Office of the EVPMA
Teri Grieb, MSA Office of Research
Judy Hallberg, S.P.H.R., UMMS Human Resources
Kelly, UMHS Human Resources
Erin Koenigsknecht, UMHS Marketing Communications
Eric Kratochwill, UMHHC Office of the CEO
Allison Krieger, Public Relations and Marketing Communications
Rick Krupinski, Editor, Medicine at Michigan
Alisa Morningstar, UMHS, MFit Health Promotion
Sara Nielsen, Safety Management Services
Tammy Nipper, UMMS Human Resources
Juanita Parry, Nurse Recruitment & Retention
Steve Raymond, UMHHC Leadership & Staff Development
Karen Schlueter, Livonia Health Center
Connie Standiford, Medical School Administration
Carole Strong, House Officers Association
Public Relations & Marketing Communications Staff
Michael Harrison, chief public relations and marketing officer
Kara Gavin, director of public relations
Beth Johnson, editor and senior writer
Jessica Soulliere, assistant editor
Geoff O'Connor, Web developer
Anne Rueter, senior public relations representative
Mary Masson, senior public relations representative
Cathy Mellett, contributing writer
Haley Otman, contributing writer
Juliet Fuller, photography coordinator
Bruce Spiher, information technology writer