Polypropylene is a plastic used to make surgical blue wrap. Blue wrap plays a critical role in maintaining the sterility of surgical instruments prior to use in the operating room. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates it accounts for 19 percent of all operating room waste. For hospitals without a sustainability program or formal greening the OR initiative in place, “what to do with all that wrap” is a common dilemma. For those intent on reducing their environmental footprint, it’s an important consideration, as Practice Greenhealth estimates some 255 million pounds of blue wrap is thrown away each year.
Hospital Plastic Waste
It’s hard to conceptualize what so much waste looks like. If you think in terms of a car, the team at Circular Blu suggests 1 million pounds of blue wrap is equivalent to 250 cars. Considering 15 percent of hospital waste is recyclable plastic …
2.1M lbs. recyclable plastic generated/day: Equivalent to 525 cars
766.5M lbs. recyclable plastic generated/year: Equivalent to 191,625 cars
255M lbs. of blue wrap thrown away annually: Equivalent to 63,750 cars
Sources: Practice Greenhealth
*Circular Blu, formerly Blu2Green (http://circularblu.com)
According to Faye Porter, director of sustainability and member education for HealthTrust, this represents a significant opportunity for hospitals to reduce waste and, through recycling, give life to tons of old blue wrap.
Blue Renew, a recycling program from HealthTrust surgical blue wrap supplier Halyard Health, assists hospital customers in recycling both clean and used Halyard surgical wrap from their ORs. Through this program, more than 400 U.S. hospitals are diverting over 4 million pounds of blue wrap from landfills each year. The program is expected to extend the life cycle of single-use wraps, allowing healthcare facilities to recycle more than 30 million pounds of blue wrap waste annually.
“Blue Renew is customized to a facility’s needs, so each can actively achieve its sustainability goals,” says Joseph Hannibal, Halyard’s associate marketing director. Halyard offers the program at no charge and that includes on-site consulting services to educate and train facility staff. As part of the program, Halyard will also connect hospital staff with the appropriate recycling partners, and monitor and report on performance.
Hospitals should not experience any internal operational costs to run Blue Renew. Hannibal suggests the facility’s supply chain manager or green team member check with the hospital’s contracted supplier for waste collection to inquire if there is a charge for each pickup or to amend an existing contract to include the collection of blue wrap.
Turning Blue Wrap Into New Products
Healthcare sustainability advocates are concerned about a product’s life cycle—essentially, what happens from manufacturing through disposal or end of life.
Halyard’s Blue Renew Process
• Facility collects clean blue wrap
• Approved collector picks up wrap and stores for recycler pickup
• Recycler collects and processes
• Processor creates resin pellets
• Resin pellets are used to create new products
“It was important to Halyard when developing the Blue Renew program that the wrap benefit the local community in its reuse,” Hannibal notes. “Halyard works with recyclers to keep the wrap free from harsh chemicals as the material melts into resin used to manufacture a variety of products that can be used both inside and outside of the hospital setting.”
Consider the work of Medford, Massachusetts-based Circular Blu, formerly Blu2Green. Through its recycling and repurposing of blue wrap, Circular Blu is dedicated to helping people with disabilities find gainful employment and become part of the community. Its wallets, totes and neckties are hand sewn by employees, who are often challenged to find employment.
At the core of Circular Blu’s vision is the idea of a “circular economy”—a model that turns what was otherwise waste into a reusable commodity—providing benefits for all stakeholders in the process.
Do blue wrap bags sound familiar? Attendees at HealthTrust’s 2014 University Conference were greeted at the registration desk with a conference tote handcrafted by the team at Circular Blu.