Regulated Medical Waste Reduction

We continue to advance our systemwide goal of reducing regulated medical waste (RMW), maintaining our total RMW at less than 10 percent of our total waste stream, a national benchmark. RMW, also referred to as “Red bag waste,” is resource intensive to process and dispose. By reducing our red bag waste, we are reducing processing pollution, significant waste costs, and safety risks associated with handling this waste stream. Regulated medical waste (RMW) is consistently well below 8 percent of University Hospitals’ total waste, placing us among the nation’s best performers according to this benchmark. However, there remain many opportunities for us to continue to reduce our RMW volumes:

Upon conducting a series of red bag waste audits prior to 2013, we demonstrated that, as in most hospitals, there was nonregulated waste being disposed unnecessarily in red bags, resulting in higher cost and environmental impact of waste processing. Based on these results, a renewed educational campaign on appropriate red bag waste utilization was launched for systemwide clinical leadership in 2013.

Reusable sharps containers are used at all medical centers throughout the system.

We incorporate information about sustainability in our employee orientation program, including proper waste handling. All new UH employees now receive a hands-on demonstration and detailed presentation on waste segregation, with a focus on red bag waste minimization. References are made to prior year waste audits, the high cost of disposing of red bag waste, and the environmental considerations that must be made when disposing of any waste within the system. The Greening UH employee intranet site serves as a resource for employees' waste-related questions.

Relative RMW volumes

15 Environmental Excellence awards

UH received 15 Environmental Excellence awards from Practice Greenhealth, including the prestigious System for Change award, for our systemwide achievements in sustainability in 2013.