Protecting Oregon's Environment
Oregon State Seal
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Land Quality 

Commercial Waste Reduction Clearinghouse

Setting Up A Program
Waste Reduction Strategies
Educate and Promote
Recognition and Funding
Success Stories
Commercial Laws and Regulations

Waste Reduction Strategies

Health Care

Also see: Health Care Case Studies in Oregon

Waste Prevention


  • 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 optimally low.
  • 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 processing unit.
  • 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  • Improve ordering practices so perishable products don't become outdated or unusable.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" mattresses.
  • 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 basins.
  • 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 instruments.
  • Contact the manufacturer when one item in a surgical tray is causing the whole pack to outdate early (e.g., tetracaine in a spinal tray).
  • Purchase washable surgical and isolation gowns and sterilization trays.
  • 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 tips.
  • Also see General Tips for more Office Waste Reduction Tips.


  • 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 Success Stories.
  • 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 away.


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
[print version]


For more information about DEQ's Land Quality programs, visit the DEQ contact page.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Headquarters: 700 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97232
Phone: 503-229-5696 or toll free in Oregon 1-800-452-4011
Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service: 1-800-735-2900  FAX: 503-229-6124

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a regulatory agency authorized to protect Oregon's environment by
the State of Oregon and the Environmental Protection Agency.

DEQ Web site privacy notice