PLATTSBURGH — CVPH Medical Center has initiated a new recycling policy in patient rooms, a move that will reduce waste the facility generates while saving money in overall operating costs.
About two years ago, the hospital entered an agreement with Casella Waste Management Services to start a hospital-wide Zero Sort Recycling program, in which recyclables of all types are placed in one container and then picked up by Casella for sorting offsite.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase (in materials entering the recycling process rather than the garbage can),” said Beth Giroux, director of Environmental Services at CVPH. “Also, working with Casella has enabled us to recycle more products, both plastics and non-plastics.”
STABLE WASTE STREAM
For instance, the hospital recycled only No. 1 and No. 2 plastics with the former process but can now place all types of plastics into the Casella bins.
“These additions allow us to get that material out of our waste stream and have allowed the amount of waste we generate to remain stable during the growth we’ve seen at CVPH over the past several years,” Giroux said.
In 2011, the Medical Center generated 1,457,000 tons of general waste. So far this year, the total is 701,460 tons, figures that show the amount is stable and not increasing.
Also last year, the hospital recycled nearly 286,000 tons of materials. Thus far in 2012, CVPH has recycled almost 270,000 tons already.
Another important move by the hospital was to reduce its medical waste. CVPH pays $65 a ton for general waste but 33 cents a pound — $660 a pound — for medical waste.
“That’s been our focus for quite some time,” Giroux said of the need to find ways to reduce the medical waste.
Medical-waste containers had been used in all of the facility’s patient rooms, but non-medical waste often ended up in them as well.
This year, the hospital began using green Zero Sort containers for such recyclable materials as plastic cups patients use for their liquids. Staff is now responsible for placing medical waste in the proper containers located in general areas on patient floors.
“For one thing, we wanted the rooms to be more homey for our patients,” Giroux said. “Our Environmental Services staff is here to explain to patients and family about recycling in the rooms.
“It’s been very successful,” she said of the switch, which was initiated earlier this year. “We can do a lot better, but we are moving in the right direction.”
‘THE RIGHT THING’
CVPH generated 96,940 tons of medical waste in 2011. Despite significant increases in medical procedures in such areas as the new Heart Center, this year’s amount of medical waste generated (52,000 tons thus far) is also stable with last year’s numbers.
The changes not only benefit the hospital and its patients but the region in general, Giroux added.
“We are a part of the community,” she said. “We want to do the right thing for the community and for the environment.”
Environmental Services staff has also initiated a new compost program to move materials out of the waste stream and into a reusable form, Giroux noted.
“Other than labor, the trash we throw out is my largest expense,” she said. “Anything we can do to keep those numbers in line is going to benefit the facility and the community.”
To illustrate the amount of waste the hospital generates each year, Environmental Services has distributed an informational flier that says it all in pictures: together, one elephant, one airplane, one whale, a four-member family and an ambulance equal the weight of one-year’s waste.
The flier also identifies more than 25 items that can be included in the Zero-Sort Recycling program, including bottles of any color and glass containers.
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