The World Health Organization reports, of the total amount
of waste generated by healthcare activities each year, about 80
percent is general waste and the other 20 percent is considered
hazardous, meaning its infectious, toxic or radioactive. In the
United States, hospitals produce more than 5. 9 million tons of
waste annually, according to Practice Greenhealth.
In an effort to combat this waste, healthcare facilities have
options like recycling, reusing and donating supplies and equipment no longer needed exist, along with various products to help
healthcare facilities be green. Surgical Products was curious how
realistic these sustainable options were, so we asked professionals in the field. These are some of their responses.
How can hospitals dispose of surgical
waste in a sustainable way?
Eric Wan, SHARE research coordinator: Hospitals can im-
prove the healthcare delivered to people beyond their immediate
catchment areas by recovering and
donating those unused medical sup-
plies. Many hospitals have access
to non-profits that would gladly
receive those medical supplies and
donate them to those in resource-
poor settings. So long as the recov-
ery and donation process is done
in a responsible manner, this is one
viable method to handle unused,
clean medical supplies otherwise
Currently Hopkins has an organi-
zation called “Supporting Hospitals
Abroad with Resources and Equip-
ment” (SHARE) which helps with the recovery and donation
process. A lot of what would otherwise be considered medical
waste (clean, unused supplies) is now considered recoverable.
We donate to local clinics, mission groups, and non-profits that
send medical supplies abroad in a responsible manner.
Dave Maness, Cactus, LLC CEO: One place to start is with
unused pharmaceuticals. In the past, nursing staff have utilized
various means of disposal for partially administered and unused
pharmaceuticals. Hospitals may have as many as 25 to 50 loca-
tions, or more, where medications are administered to patients.
In many cases there is some left over which poses a challeng-
ing for nursing staff, "....what do I do with the left over portion
of Controlled Substance waste?"
Recently we have all seen many pub-
lications and increasing awareness
of pharmaceuticals turning up in
our waste water. We also know most
of this comes from patient excretion;
however, medical facilities are also
pressured to reduce the amount of
pharmaceutical waste they intro-
duce directly into the waste stream.
In many facilities I find nursing
staff tend to be good stewards of the
environment and sometimes, out of
confusion or convenience, they use any means available to get
rid of controlled substances, to include waste bins, red sharps
containers, and sometimes sinks or toilets. Remaining portions
of controlled substances must be disposed of or "wasted" in a
method that it cannot be recovered.
Drug diversion is also a huge concern for medical staff and
poses risk to patients and hospital employees. Formerly the
DEA required drain disposal of partially administered narcotics; however, due to environmental concerns, lack of compliance or the fact that drains may not be readily available, environmentally friendly alternatives are necessary. As of October
2014, the DEA and no longer recognizes draining as method of
disposal and now recognizes effective, go-green alternatives for
this type of waste.
Readers Evaluate Green Options
Professionals realistically weigh sustainable options in waste disposal.
Facilitated by Rebecca Rudolph, editor
Eric Wan, SHARE