The health care industry has a garbage problem.
The medical industry, all on its own, is generating two million tons of waste a year! – and that’s only the last known estimate from the early 1900s. Currently, no organization tracks the amount of medical waste produced in the United States. There is no tracking of medical waste disposal companies as of now.
Lately, a few organizations have been working on ways to reduce the environmental footprint of the medical industry. Here are a few ways they’ve come up with to reduce your medical waste:
a) Reducing the single-use products used unnecessarily. Part of this solution is to cut
back the use of disposables at the source by streamlining packaged surgical kits. For example, one kit for implanting an intravenous port in chemotherapy patients contained 44 items, but the green team downsized it to 27 items and swapped disposable gowns and linens for reusable ones. That trimmed a pound of trash and $50 in supply costs, per procedure.
b) Recycling products that have been used, when possible. Some single-use devices can be reused after reprocessing. Several reprocessing companies take certain disposables- like orthopedic drill bits and heart-monitoring catheters- and clean, recalibrate, repackage and re-sterilize them. Then, they sell them back to hospitals and medical suppliers for 40 to 60 percent of the price of new ones, instead of leaving the items to be carted away by medical waste management companies.
c) Donating leftover but still usable items to developing nations, instead of throwing them out. The items can be donated to non-profit organizations, like InterVol, or humanitarian relief groups, like Project C.U.R.E. They are probably doing better things for our planet with the items than medical waste disposable companies, like Stericycle, are doing. (That’s an understatement.)
InterVol reports that each week, its volunteers gather 8,000 pounds of unused supplies and reusable equipment from regional health care facilities, then ship the stock to clinics in more than two dozen countries, including Somalia and Haiti. Supplies have included hospital beds, operating tables, crutches, scissors, unused excess dressings from medical kits and, in one case, tens of thousands of brand-new hypodermic needles.
We urge you to refer to the full article: “In a World of Throwaways, Making a Dent in Medical Waste”
Some organizations to check out:
American College of Cardiology