In June 2008, Franklin Square Hospital Center (FSHC) shut down its on-site incinerator and began the transition to autoclave technology to treat its regulated medical waste (RMW). This decision, coupled with the beginning of a RMW reduction program, serves as the cornerstone of the ‘Be Square, Be Green,’ program, and has been the catalyst behind many of the environmental initiatives that have sprung up throughout the hospital.
Shutting down the incinerator has led to improvements in air quality and pollution prevention to a degree that FSHC has not yet been able to measure, although toxic air emissions and toxic ash residue are well known effects of medical waste incinerator use. The incinerator consumed around 13 million gallons of water annually.
As a result of the ‘Be Square, Be Green’ waste separation and reduction program, FSHC reduced infectious waste by 95,275 pounds per month on average from the previous year and increased commingled recyclables to an average of 19,000 pounds each month. These changes have drastically changed the profile of the waste stream. Whereas the “old” waste stream was 38% infectious materials, 55% noninfectious materials, and 7% recyclables in the last quarter of FY 08, the waste stream in the same period of FY 09 was just 20% infectious materials, 65% non-infectious materials, and 15% recyclables. The recycling percentage includes over 700 pounds of batteries.
The RMW reduction program required the separation of infectious and non-infectious waste, where there previously had been no distinction. Also, separation of recyclable materials, including metal, plastic, glass, and cardboard, which are collected and stored together in the solar-powered compactor. Batteries, electronic items, and cooking oil are recycled as well.
FSHC has also increased the purchase of reusable items and those with a longer lifespan, moved away from disposables and limits the amount of Styrofoam and other packaging used for food service.
FSHC switched over to Rubbermaid microfiber mops, decreasing the use of chemicals and water by at least 90% by allowing Environmental Services employees to clean 20 rooms using the same amount of water and chemicals as it used to take to clean just 3 rooms (as required by the CDC). The new mops can withstand up to 500 laundry cycles, whereas the old string mops lasted just 70 cycles.
FSHC switched from disposable to reusable sharps containers which has eliminated four tons of plastic from the annual waste stream. This change has also provided health and safety benefits to our staff by decreasing the amount of handling involved in switching out sharps containers.
FSHC is part of the MedStar system. At a corporate level, MedStar is currently working with facilities to formulate corporate policies that extend best practices to all of its eight members. MedStar is committed to advancing our collective environmental progress by sharing best practices and is happy to share success strategies and innovative programs with managers inquiring from other facilities.
Contact: Dennis Kephart, Senior Director of Integrated Support Services, firstname.lastname@example.org