Greening UH at the Waste and Recycling Bin

Even waste has its place.

Where and how we dispose of waste influences our operational health as an organization, as well as the health of our community air, soil and water. All waste has an economic and environmental cost, and typically the more environmentally friendly the waste stream, the less expensive it is to manage. 

University Hospitals reinforced its efforts, in part as participants of the Healthier Hospitals Less Waste Challenge, to increase recycling, reduce regulated medical waste, and better manage construction and demolition debris recycling and landfill diversion.

In 2016, our newly appointed internal waste coordinator – a former chemical safety officer – began to emphasize the segregation of hazardous waste streams for safety, proper diversion and cost savings. Educational materials about chemical and hazardous waste that had been carefully developed in 2015 were reviewed with key stakeholders, edited, used at in-services and distributed to frontline staff and vendors, and posted internally on the system GreeningUH employee website. Physician locations were coached on how to appropriately set up and/or right-size waste stream bins. Further, the hazardous materials sub-committee of the UH Safety Office now includes sustainability representation when appropriate. In late 2016, this sub-committee embarked on the first steps of a goal to automatically flag known toxic or other hazardous chemicals with “notify chemical safety” tags so chemicals with high toxicity or other hazards would not be ordered without the knowledgeable review of a chemical safety officer.

A comprehensive Waste Guide completed in late 2016, including an updated “at a glance reminder” waste segregation chart for posting in clinical areas, is now being used in employee engagement and education sessions to continue to reduce rates of contamination between waste streams, with an emphasis on safety, health and cost-saving benefits.

Recycle Champs Education for Employees

A new employee education program, Recycle Champs, launched in 2016 with the aim to change behaviors and bolster our system recycling rate. The Recycle Champs sessions were presented by our system waste coordinator at five facilities to over 170 people, and will also form the backbone of a more comprehensive 2017 behavior education effort called the G.R.E.E.N. Stewards program. Include in the program will also be a class on how to reduce regulated medical waste.

32% Recycle Rate Systemwide

Composting to Reduce Landfill Waste

Rust Belt Riders

“Working with UH has allowed us to create a new part-time position, just to service the UH Cleveland Medical Center campus and MSC. As we add more accounts, that part-time position will quickly become full-time. Additionally, that service delivery job has a ripple effect well beyond the hourly wage we pay them. Our work supports employment opportunities at the urban farms/ gardens we partner with, it creates compost, diverts food waste from landfill, retains stormwater, and improves air quality.” – Rust Belt Riders

UH also saw a new opportunity to re-start composting efforts for the system in 2016: in mid-August, local composting company, Rust Belt Riders, began composting pre-consumer food waste for all kitchens at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and at the Management Services Center. In the fall of 2016, this local company helped UH divert 22.5 tons of food waste from landfills, creating instead a commodity product – compost – that is then "reinvested" into the community as a soil amendment to improve the soil quality in the locally grown production gardens and urban farms of Northeast Ohio. Rust Belt Riders also helped UH hold two successful Zero Waste events at the UH Cleveland Medical Center campus in 2016, diverting an additional 1500 pounds of compostable waste from the landfill.

Safer Chemical Usage and Disposal

In 2014, a system-wide mercury free purchasing policy was developed to officially formalize mercury-free purchasing practices that were already in place at all facilities. In coordination with the Office of Sustainability, the Department of Safety outlined a specific and meaningful goal for a thorough mercury inventory to be completed at each wholly owned medical center by September 2015. In conjunction with the verification of mercury inventories, the system-wide hazardous spill policy was revised to specifically include increased safety procedures for handling mercury. Inventories were completed and are on file the UH Department of Environmental Safety. In 2015 and 2016 newly joined hospitals began the process of reporting mercury inventories and will be developing plans to eliminate and contain any existing sources within their hospitals. University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center achieved the 2016 Practice Greenhealth Making Medicine Mercury Free Award, an award that nine UH locations have achieved.

LOCATION FEATURE: University Hospitals Parma Medical Center

UH Parma Medical Center successfully reduced its regulated medical waste, or “red bag waste”, by 500 pounds a month in 2016 through employee engagement and education. Red bag waste is moderately expensive to manage and requires intensive treatment to ensure that its disposal is not bio-hazardous.

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