Those in the medical field know first-hand how hospitals use disposable materials throughout the day. In order to keep infectious diseases such as COVID-19 from infecting staff, they understandably go through a significant amount of personal protective equipment. As they test and treat patients, workers also handle biohazardous materials with specific disposal requirements. In addition, most facilities provide comprehensive patient food service and public cafeterias which create associated waste.
Ultimately, hospitals contribute a shocking amount of waste to landfills. If you’re a hospital administrator or a medical professional who is passionate about environmental advocacy, consider these waste reduction and recycling tips for hospitals.
Understand Waste Stream Differences
One challenge to managing hospital waste is the reality that one building produces so many distinct varieties of waste. There is:
- Prototypical solid refuse
- Recyclable paper and plastic
- Compostable food
- Biohazardous waste
- Radioactive waste
Each type of waste falls into a different waste stream that calls for its own unique handling. Often, during an otherwise hectic day, it’s difficult for staff to parse out what goes where. While this doesn’t mean radioactive waste accidentally ends up in the compost pile, medical professionals do inadvertently trash recyclable products or dispose of non-biohazardous materials as if they were. Overall, this enlarges a facility’s carbon footprint.
Tackle Each Waste Stream Intentionally
To remedy these oversights, practice separating different categories of waste directly after use. This cuts down on the amount of waste that runs through costly disposal procedures. Also, clarify the services your waste hauler offers. If they can’t effectively manage each waste stream, it’s time to renegotiate or find a better waste hauling partner.
Start a Recycling Program
Once you know your waste hauler allows for substantial recycling, kicking off a recycling program is the next waste reduction and recycling tip for hospitals. All throughout this process, your priorities should be education and clarity. Give each department a practical walkthrough of what is and isn’t recyclable. By educating your administrative staff in particular, who deals with stacks of paper all day, you can realize great recycling gains as your program progresses.
While education helps, you need distinct waste receptacles to make headway on your sustainability goals. Trash Cans Depot, a premier trash can and recycling bin company, sources clearly marked and consistent cans that your staff won’t easily confuse. This cuts down on disposal mistakes and keeps people from second-guessing themselves when they walk up to a trash or recycling bin.
Another mode of recycling is reuse. While unsafe in certain circumstances, introducing reusable products such as eating utensils and bedpans directly cuts down on disposable waste.