Hospital Waste – How to solve this problem?

Throughout my nursing student career, I have been hypersensitive in noting how much waste and trash is accumulated in a hospital. Growing up, my family recycled and we were very eco/health conscious, so I am disheartened and disturbed by this. Now that I’m going through my senior practicum and seeing even more frequently how much waste there is, I’ve decided to do some research on the situation.

Did you know that there are programs out there to help reduce the waste? For example, think about isolation gowns. If you have a patient on any type of isolation precautions, even as students we all know how often nurses have to go in and out of the rooms. Then on top of it, there are physicians, janitorial services, food services, etc. I looked up some information and found out that there are indeed reusable isolation gowns! How great is that? Now, you may be thinking, “But think of all the germs, etc., there must be on those gowns!” Firstly, these reusable isolation gowns are made with fibres that are tightly woven and fluid repellent and are industry rated and approved. Secondly, with the proper laundering equipment, you can save money. There are systems that reclaim heat and return the energy to washers, dryers, and ironers. Yes, believe it or not, the reusables reduce cost. Isn’t that one of the most important concerns for the hospitals? In some cases, single-use gowns can cost 25 to 50% more than the cost of reusables. And really, in the long run, this reduces waste and helps our future.

Regarding other issues of waste and cost savings, let me share some information from the Wastecare Corporation, a company that specializes in waste processing cost reductions and recycling solutions:

  • In New York, switching from disposable to reusable sharps containers resulted in $175,000 in cost savings and 34,000 pounds of waste prevention in one year for the Department of Sanitation
  • Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Oregon, purchased several permanent waterproof mattresses to replace 96% of their disposable egg crate foam mattresses. Despite the higher cost of the permanent waterproof mattresses, they ultimately saved $80,710 and prevented 16,350 pounds of waste in one year

A friend of mine in India posted this great pic on Facebook that I just have to share that to me speaks to the tendency we all have to not realize what consequences our actions have:

Littering Awareness

In terms of the hospitals, I don’t really know what the solution is, unless you have some clout with the higher ups. Consciousness and conscientiousness regarding our planet is really not what the hospital 1% are concerned about. However, if we present it from a savings cost angle, even that might do something. I hope to have some influence in the future in some manner in my place of employment.

Please, let’s all be more conscientious of our actions and remember that what we do does affect someone. Please, let’s help Mother Earth and our future generations today!

I welcome all comments, thoughts, suggestions and dialogue!

Mother Earth

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