by Nancy Ryerson
, Staff Writer | January 31, 2014
From the January 2014 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
Hospitals that haven’t embraced environmental sustainability should really be green with envy towards those that are.
It ends up that eco-friendliness doesn’t just help the earth — one recent study from the Healthier Hospitals Initiative found that greening efforts could save the health care sector $15 billion over 10 years.
By now, a majority of hospitals have caught on to the benefits. Today, 54 percent of hospitals say eco-friendly attributes are “extremely important” in their purchasing decisions, according to a Johnson & Johnson whitepaper. The Affordable Care Act may also help encourage hospitals to pursue a greener approach, as sustainable building features like increased natural light and open spaces can help boost patient satisfaction.
Going green doesn’t have to be hard — there’s no need to start recycling toilet paper and converting all of your energy to solar power. Simply switching one product to a more eco-friendly option is a great place to start. For a quick introduction, take a look at these green vendors, and you’ll be saving in no time.
Altogether, U.S. hospitals produce more than 5.9 million tons of waste each year. Traditionally, all of that medical waste has ended up in landfills where it produces methane, a greenhouse gas with six times the global warming potential as carbon dioxide. Today, many facilities truck their waste to offsite incinerators, which produce green house gases and a toxic residue.
The SteriMed system is about the size of a photocopier, and works by simultaneously shredding, macerating and disinfecting medical waste using an eco-friendly disinfectant. Then the waste can be thrown away with the regular trash. Company CEO Dwight Morgan says the SteriMed system is not only better for the planet than incineration, but it beats out more eco-friendly steam treatments too. “Steam has to be generated using fresh water,” he says. “Especially in other parts of the world, fresh water is a very important resource. It’s another part of the carbon footprint.”
Recycling doesn’t need to stop with waste processing. One of SteriMed’s customers used the macerated and cleaned waste into a park bench.
Reusable surgical gowns
Again, hospitals have a huge waste footprint. Single-use surgical gowns are made of nonwoven, fabric-like material made from fibers bonded together by chemical, mechanical, heat or solvent treatment. “In addition to the volume of waste a single-use gown generates, film-reinforced nonwoven material may take hundreds of years to breakdown in a landfill (if they break down at all),” says Shelley Petrovskis, director of marketing at Lac-Mac.