Monday, August 3, 2015 12:00 AM

Community's Sustainability Team find new ways to reduce waste

As part of the national Healthier Hospitals Initiative, Community Medical Centers’ leaders have committed to raising awareness of the connections between negative impacts on environment and public health. The national collaborative of hospitals shares best practices on sustainability, energy-savings, safer chemicals, smarter purchasing and healthier food options.

Community’s green team mans a booth at annual Earth Day activities at Community Regional. Community has reached the highest level on the Healthier Hospitals “engaged leadership” challenge.
A team of employee volunteers has been meeting regularly since 2009 to find new ways Community can reduce its carbon footprint, educate staff and visitors about environmental sustainability, and encourage everyone to be greener. The Sustainability Team’s mantra – rethink, reduce, reuse, repair and recycle.

Since its inception, the team has:
  • eliminated most foam carryout clamshell containers from cafeterias
  • instituted widespread paper, pens, cell phone and toner recycling
  • encouraged the elimination of disposable plastic water bottles at meetings
  • instituted composting of food waste
  • created an organic urban demonstration garden on the Community Regional campus
  • hosted annual Earth Day events
  • and helped save costs by finding supplies with less packaging.
This load of sharps containers – the plastic collection boxes that hang in patient rooms and surgical suites to collect needles and scalpels – is ready for sterilization and eventual reuse. Hospitals used to throw these containers in landfills.

One of the first sustainability efforts diverted plastic sharps containers from landfills. In the past 5 ½ years, Community has kept 143,531 lbs. of plastic out of the waste stream by sterilizing and reusing the containers which hang in patient rooms and operating rooms to collect used needles and scalpels. Community partners with a vendor that uses robots to open, empty and disinfect the eco-friendly containers, allowing them to be re-used up to 600 times rather than being thrown away after one use.

Since switching to reusable containers, Community has also saved 26,575 lbs. of cardboard packaging from being used and prevented an estimated 372,843 lbs. of carbon dioxide emissions from manufacturing – an amount equal to burning 19,198 gallons of gasoline or using 7,053 tanks of propane gas for barbequing.

In the operating room Community’s Sustainability Team found several ways to reduce waste and costs. Surgical devices that required a change out of batteries before every procedure have been replaced with rechargeable devices with encased battery systems, saving 34,000 batteries, or 1,700 lbs. of batteries, from disposal.  And an estimated 3,000 lbs. of disposable surgical towels was also kept out of landfills in the first three months of an innovative recycling program started in April 2015. The surgical towel recycling program piloted in 20 operating suites is now being expanded throughout the hospital system.

Community partnered with local linen company to collect and sterilize the thin blue and green cotton towels used under instrument trays. Then Gray Day Solutions, a small southern California company, repackages the towels for reuse by schools, janitorial companies, painting contractors and construction companies.

Housekeeper Vanessa Parra is part of the team at Community Regional collecting blue and green towels used in the operating room to recycle them. Money raised from this effort goes to Terry’s House.

The vendor certifies how much has been rescued for landfills and pays a 25-cent rebate apiece to the linen collector and to Community for each pound of recycled towels. Community collects its rebates for Terry’s House, the respite home for families of severely injured and ill patients of Community Regional. Terry’s House was built and is maintained entirely through donations from the public.

Related Info:

CMC is highest level on Healthier Hospitals "engaged leadership" scale: