Three industry experts discuss OR waste, sustainable practices, and green healthcare.
According to a recent study by the University of Chicago, the healthcare sector accounts for about 8 percent of greenhouse gases. Furthermore, other studies suggest operating rooms generate tremendous amount of waste:
roughly 20-30 percent of a facility’s total waste.
This is a major environmental issue, and it’s one
the healthcare industry is going to have to take very
seriously moving forward. With that in mind, three
industry experts discussed OR sustainability and
SP: What are some of the factors behind
hospital OR waste?
Kevin Liszewski, Vice President of Marketing
and Corporate Accounts, Stryker Sustainability
Solutions: According to the Sustainability Roadmap
for Hospitals, hospitals in the United States generate
nearly 7,000 tons of waste per day. Most of that comes
from the OR. As one of the largest waste generating
industries, healthcare brings with it two very distinct
waste management hurdles: an enormous volume and a
wide variety of complex types of waste,such as regulated
medical waste (infectious or biohazardous waste), solid,
hazardous, pharmaceutical, and traditional waste.
The majority of materials used in healthcare facilities
ultimately become waste and for some facilities that are
open 24/7, year-round, that amount can add up quickly.
Ed Nuber, Senior Product Manager, Sterile
Containers, Aesculap, Inc.: Look at the waste stream
of what is going out of the OR. When you compare a
sterile container, which is a reusable system, versus a
blue wrap, which is a single-use system, you need to
open up the blue wrap, inspect it, and then discard it.
The blue wrap does not compress easily, so you are
getting large piles of the blue wrap in the hospital to be
discarded. There are several papers out there that state
that 19 percent of the waste stream generated by surgical
services is blue sterile wrap.
SP: What areas should facilities look into/
target to make measurable improvements?
Liszewski: One of the most immediately impactful ini-
tiatives available to help reduce waste in the OR is third
party medical device reprocessing. Reprocessing prevents
thousands of tons of medical waste from entering landfills,
in addition to saving healthcare systems hundreds of mil-
lions of dollars every year.
Implementing a reprocessing program can be easy. It typically requires no up-front capital investment and service representatives can provide the necessary education to help staff
get up to speed quickly on the science behind reprocessing,
its benefits and how to implement a successful OR program.
Chris Hosler, Brand Manager for Fluid Waste
Management, Zimmer Surgical: Implementation of a fluid
management system provides significant, immediate, and
measureable environmental performance improvements in
the areas of regulated medical waste minimization, device
reuse, and reprocessing, as well as medical plastics recycling.
SP: What do you believe has more of an
impact on the amount of waste a hospital
OR generates: purchasing decisions or
proper/improper practices and behaviors?
Hosler: Purchasing decisions can have the most immediate and permanent impact on waste generation and
savings. Behaviors and proper practices require on-go-ing training and reinforcement as personnel change and
good habits are formed.
Nuber: I think it’s both. If the facility decides to stick
with disposable products, then you are generating a lot
of waste out of that facility. Everything that gets thrown
out has to be purchased, stocked, and moved through the
hospital. A lot of internal resources are being utilized. If a
facility has a reusable product, it is purchased once and it
doesn’t have to be replenished.
Liszewski: We strongly believe that healthcare sustainability
programs are the most effective at reducing waste when hospitals address both purchasing decisions and daily practices.
These efforts are generally more accepted and successful
when hospital leadership set clear expectations and drive a
sustainability-centric culture. With the support of the C-suite,
tackling both purchases and behaviors properly can significantly reduce the amount of waste generated in the OR.
SP: Can you point out the effects hospital waste
has on a facility from a financial standpoint?
Liszewski: Because of special handling requirements for
VP of Marketing &