It's no secret that healthcare facilities produce huge amounts of trash, specifically 6,600 tons per day, much of which ends up in landfills or in expensive incineration or autoclaving processes. About 70% of that comes from operating rooms and obstetric procedures.
But a study in the latest issue of Archives of Surgery by researchers at the University of Maryland's Bloomberg School of Public Health says that with a little thought and planning, hospitals can realize billions in savings. Some of the waste is hazardous and must be properly and expensively disposed of, but some of it is actually harmless, they say.
The researchers, led by Martin Makary, MD, Bloomberg associate professor of surgery, itemized five categories of surgical setting waste reduction that could save energy, avoid unnecessary purchases, and better manage pharmaceutical waste.
"There are many strategies that don't add risk to patients but allow hospitals to cut waste and reduce their carbon footprints," Makary said. "If we're going to get serious as a country about being environmentally conscious, we need to look at our biggest institutions. When an individual decides to recycle or dispose of waste differently, it has an impact. When a hospital decides as an organization to go green, the impact is massive."