June 07, 2017
WICHITA – Wesley Healthcare has become a community leader in recycling efforts, credited with recycling nearly 164 tons – or 328,140 pounds – of waste in 2016 alone.
That means Wesley Medical Center’s recycling efforts amounted to 8 percent of its total waste output, while Wesley Woodlawn Hospital and ER came in at 9 percent.
“Our recycling program is one that allows us to give back to the environment and to the community we serve here in the Wichita area,” said Jim Catt, Wesley safety officer. “It takes everyone’s participation to drive a thriving and successful recycling program of this magnitude.”
While this is a far cry from Wesley’s 22,740 total pounds of recycled waste in 2012, there is room for improvement.
Healthcare facilities produce a lot of waste and figuring out how to safely and effectively channel that waste is an ongoing challenge for many in the healthcare industry.
Healthcare facilities in the United States generate approximately 14,000 tons of waste per day, according to the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council.
Researchers estimate that between 20 and 25 percent of that 6,600 tons can be attributed to plastic packaging and plastic products. In addition, 85 percent of the waste generated is non-infectious.
That’s why Wesley Healthcare in 2012 introduced a comprehensive recycling program through Stericycle, a leading provider of specialized waste and sustainability services. Since then, Wesley Healthcare’s recycling efforts have increased more than 1,000 percent.
“We all play a vital role in ensuring our environmental footprint is as small as possible in order for us to be sustainable and good stewards of our environment,” said Casey Guber, chief operating officer for Wesley Healthcare. “It’s important we recognize the connection between public health and the benefits of recycling to our ecosystem.”
Wesley’s recycling efforts skyrocketed by 49 percent from 2014 to 2015, but increased only 7 percent last year, or by 21,000 pounds of waste.
While there is some slow-down as hospitals start to reach their recycling capacity, hospitals aim to recycle 10 to 20 percent or more of their total waste output each year. Some of the nation’s most committed hospitals are clocking in at 30 percent experts say.
“Getting to 10 percent is definitely attainable in 2017 – that additional 1-2 percent will take effort on everyone’s part,” said Jessica Gibbons, healthcare sustainability specialist with Stericycle and a leader on Wesley’s recycle support team.
“Every employee can have an impact by knowing where the green recycling containers are located, know what types of items can be placed in them, and placing those items in the containers as often as possible.”
The benefits of a successful hospital recycling program are wide-ranging, providing a means to reduce operational costs, increase worker safety, enhance community benefits and, in some cases, save money.
With its comprehensive recycling program in place, Wesley Healthcare is now successfully recycling regulated medical waste, sharps, municipal solid waste, recycling material, pharmaceutical waste, hazardous waste and pathological and trace chemotherapy waste. The largest waste stream in hospitals in solid waste, which covers several types of specialty waste, including regulated medical waste, confidential waste and hazardous materials, among others. Much of the material, if properly handled, is completely recyclable.
Properly training staff and ensuring adequate procedures down to the level of clearly mandating use of correct waste containers is critical to ensuring program success and minimizing worker risk inside and outside a healthcare facility.
There are more than 170 recycling containers at Wesley and more than 50 at Wesley Woodlawn. They are mostly located at nursing stations, employee break rooms, medication rooms and some supply and soiled utility rooms.
Wesley Healthcare has also made significant reductions to its carbon footprint. Estimating carbon footprint is a way of gauging the impact of one’s activities on the environment. The smaller one’s footprint, the less carbon dioxide (CO2) is generated, which helps slow climate change. In 2016, Wesley Medical Center and Wesley Woodlawn Hospital and ER:
- Prevented 30,087 pounds of CO2 emissions
- Kept 48,836 pounds of plastic out of landfills
- Kept 2,251 pounds of cardboard out of landfills
- Prevented CO2 emissions equal to 1,498 gallons of gasoline
- Prevented C02 emissions equal to 550 tanks of propane gas for home barbecues
Gibbons said Stericycle is partnering with Wesley Healthcare on its recycling initiative to assist in finding new recyclable products, placing additional containers, relocating containers for improved use, educating employees on recycling, and holding events such as Earth Day to renew employee support for the hospitals’ recycling programs.
The impact hospital employees can have on our environment is enormous,” Gibbons said. “Walk those few extra steps to the recycling bin. We should all feel it is our duty to ensure our planet lasts as long as possible. We owe it to our future generations.”