Reducing & Safely Disposing of Hospital Waste

HealthTrust helps facilities realize benefits in prioritizing hospital waste reduction

Facility managers can become easily overwhelmed when tasked with safely reducing facility waste. For starters, implementing sustainability initiatives can look incredibly different given the healthcare facility, the population it serves and the waste stream management protocol that may or may not already be in place.

Plus, shifting regulatory restrictions can add another layer of difficulty to hospitals negotiating short- or long-term contracts with waste management companies or other suppliers. However, the national need to prioritize hospital waste reduction is great.

In fact, healthcare facilities account for 5.9 million tons of waste annually, according to Practice Greenhealth. The organization also reports that average-sized hospitals produce nearly 12,000 tons of waste every day—that’s more than 28 pounds of waste per hospital bed.

Raquel Toombs, director of strategic sourcing for purchased services at HealthTrust, says that healthcare facilities have a social responsibility to focus on sustainability efforts. That can be aided by effective staff communication, both about new programs or initiatives as well as training to ensure that the right waste type ends up in the right bin.

“Waste will always be there, so the question is how can we better optimize segregation and recycling?” Toombs says. “We must improve staff training by encouraging better awareness of hospital policies, sustainability efforts and the safe disposal of waste.”

 

Strategies for Moving Forward

For hospitals eager to integrate new waste management protocols, a practical approach is essential. When it comes to choosing partners, HealthTrust offers several contracted suppliers that help members manage their sustainability efforts through the selection of customized, scalable solutions. Some options prioritize convenience and full-service management, while others prioritize cost savings and greater choice.

New contracts in the Controlled Substances category went live in January 2018. This category was initiated by HealthTrust’s Pharmacy Advisory Board after new regulations were released regarding controlled substance waste, in part because of the ongoing opioid crisis.

“In the past, any unused controlled substances could literally be flushed down the toilet, and that was OK,” Toombs says. “Now facilities are required to have a system in place that renders those drugs non-retrievable. It prevents diversion (through use or sale) of this kind of waste.”

HealthTrust contracted suppliers in the Controlled Substances category are GFMD’s RxDestroyer and Stryker’s Cactus Sink. HealthTrust is in the process of adding a third supplier—Stericycle’s CsRx Controlled Substance Disposal Program.

Renewed contracts in the Waste Stream Management category went live April 1. Toombs says this offering is a convenient option for members because it manages all their waste streams under one umbrella.

“From document destruction, food and solid waste, to red bag waste and sharps—all waste streams are included in one, centralized management program,” Toombs explains. “This option means facilities won’t have to worry about segmenting all of their waste streams and sending them out to different suppliers on a piecemeal basis.”

These suppliers also offer consulting services around diversion and recycling opportunities. “Food waste can be segregated from regular trash, and then dumped at a compost site rather than in a landfill. This strategy lowers waste costs as well as reduces the amount of pollution released into the atmosphere,” Toombs explains.

Although there is a greater cost on the front end, she says that the consulting services can help organizations save money in the long term.

“The suppliers work with hospitals to develop goals to ensure they’re segregating the waste the best they can,” Toombs says. “They help train staff, too, making sure everyone is doing what they need to do with the waste.”

By the third quarter of 2018, HealthTrust will be renewing contracts in the Medical Waste Streams category, giving members an alternative, individual waste streams disposal solution as opposed to the centralized total waste management option.

“With individual waste stream agreements, members have a lot of choice,” Toombs says. “The individual option breaks out the different programs such as solid waste and regulated medical waste.”

Stericycle, MedSafe, Daniels and Clean Harbors offer disposal services for individual medical waste streams, including sharps, red bag, pharmaceutical and hazardous waste.

Juggling the complexities of waste reduction is no small task, but there are ample benefits—including environmental stewardship and cost savings—of journeying down a more sustainable path specifically tailored to your healthcare organization.

 

Contact your HealthTrust account manager or Director of Strategic Sourcing for Purchased Services Raquel Toombs (raquel.toombs@healthtrustpg.com) for information on waste management contracts.

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