Waste Reduction Strategies
Also see: Health Care Case Studies in Oregon
- Use the first-in, first-out system to rotate chemical stocks,
pay attention to expiration dates.
- Buy drugs in container sizes that permit formulation of daily
doses with the least quantity of excess product leftover.
- Reduce photographic wastes from imaging equipment, like
wastewater containing photographic chemicals and silver from film.
- Extend the life of fixing baths by adding ammonium thiosulfate
(doubles the allowable concentration of silver buildup in the bath).
- Add acetic acid to fixing baths to keep the pH of the bath
- Do not mix used X-ray fixer and developer: dedicate separate
containers and treatment methods.
- Collect used X-ray fixer and store used in a closed plastic
container labeled "Hazardous Waste - Used Fixer" with the date fixer
was first added. Contact a recycling service when enough fixer has
accumulated (usually 5-10 gallons).
- Install a silver recovery unit at the end of the X-ray
- Evaluate changing to a non-toxic x-ray developer.
- Renegotiate contracts with haulers of "red bag" or regulated
medical waste to provide clean and reusable containers.
- Eliminate plastic trash bag liners in administrative areas.
- Buy most cleaning substances in 55-gallon drums that are
refilled by supplier.
- Use concentrated cleaning solutions that staff mix as needed.
- Use washable mop heads instead of disposable ones.
- Select or ask vendors to follow packaging preference criteria of
no packaging or minimal packaging; consumable, returnable,
refillable, reusable packaging; and recyclable packaging/recycled
material in packaging.
- Improve ordering practices so perishable products don't become
outdated or unusable.
- Cut down on multiple subscriptions of medical publications by
asking staff to share journals and magazines.
- Determine if cloth towels can be used and later sold for rags.
- Use cloth diapers.
- Use worn diapers as cleaning rags.
- Provide decubitus-care mattresses instead of foam "egg-carton"
- Eliminate duplicate admission kits.
- Replace disposable admission kits (water pitchers, glasses, and
bed pans) with reusable in patients rooms.
- Use washable linens, bed pads, under-pads, gowns, and emesis
- Purchase reusable pillows.
- Convert blankets, mattress pads, and quilts into pot holders
(done by volunteers).
- Set up a system where nursing staff evaluate personal care items
such as aspirin packets, tissues, shampoo, baby wipes, and diapers
for reuse (following infection control guidelines) instead of
automatically disposing them.
- Eliminate unused items from custom surgical packs (once a pack
is opened, unused items are discarded).
- Consider switching from disposable to reusable medical
- Contact the manufacturer when one item in a surgical tray is
causing the whole pack to outdate early (e.g., tetracaine in a
- Purchase washable surgical and isolation gowns and sterilization
- Mend gown ties so they last longer.
- Convert surgical drapers into biopsy cloths.
- Sanitize and reuse plastic fracture pans.
- Sanitize and reuse graduated measuring containers.
- Donate clean, unused operating room supplies for reuse overseas.
- Use washable plates, eating utensils, glasses and cups for
cafeteria and patient service.
- Sell reusable mugs with no-spill lids, then offer discounts to
anyone using their own mug.
- Start up a "think before you use" campaign to decrease use of
disposable items: napkins, condiments, etc.
- Switch to a bulk milk dispenser for patients instead of
individual milk cartons.
- Buy products in bulk and keep in stay fresh containers on
display instead of selling individually wrapped products. (e.g.,
breakfast muffins, cereal, etc.).
- Purchase products that come in recyclable packaging such as tin,
aluminum and glass.
- Place rubber mats around bus and dish washing stations to reduce
china and glass breakage.
- See Food Service for more restaurant related
- Also see General Tips for more Office Waste
- To preserve confidentiality while recycling look into having
shredded files and papers recycled.
- Investigate recycled content and recyclable products. The Legacy
Health System in Portland, Oregon switched form paper/plastic blend
disposable coffee cups to an all-plastic recyclable cup. See Oregon
- Assess the need for recycle bins near vending machines, in
waiting rooms or in other commons areas to accommodate visitors.
- Request recyclable tote containers from suppliers, whenever
possible, to reduce chemical drum waste and disposal costs.
- Set up recycling containers at the dish disposal/tray collection
area so that materials are sorted for recycling rather than thrown
For more information visit these web sites:
- Composting Council of Canada
- Composting News
- Internet Recycling and Composting Resource Page
- Recyclers World central composting category
- US EPA composting