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Green programs at Seattle Children’s have diverted 30 tons of pharma waste from landfills, saved more than $350,000 and 200,000 gallons of gasoline in 2009

April 19, 2010

 Expanded sustainable waste management program helps reduce impact on landfills. 

Seattle Children’s announced that it has saved more than $350,000 in 2009 through a more sustainable waste management program for all forms of waste, including pharmaceutical and medical waste. 

Children’s ambitious waste removal program includes expanding recycling processes, increasing composting, implementing a new pharmaceutical waste disposal program and reducing the disposal of medical waste in landfills. 

The expanded program helped Children’s successfully achieve a 39 percent overall recycling rate in 2009, compared to 32 percent in 2008. Children’s is the only hospital in the Puget Sound region to have a mixed, single stream, recycling program – which captures eight to ten percent more recyclable materials than non-single stream hospitals. Single stream recycling allows paper and other recyclables to be mixed together in a collection truck instead of being sorted separately. This requires less sorting within the hospital which makes it easier for staff and families to recycle. Using the single stream program, Children’s recycled 467 tons of mixed materials in 2009 (16 more tons than in 2008).

 “We are committed to reducing our impact on the environment,” said Lisa Brandenburg, Chief Administrative Officer at Children’s. “Reducing the amount we send to landfills and recycling or re-using materials is a key foundation of our success. Additionally, we are committed to continuous performance principals to help reduce waste, and use materials and equipment more efficiently throughout the hospital.”

Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal Program

Hospitals generate a substantial amount of pharmaceutical waste – some hazardous, some non-hazardous – that requires proper disposal. Generally, this waste is composed of pharmaceuticals that have been dispensed, but not completely used – leaving excess in the container. The process to handle and dispose of this waste can be complex. Pharmaceutical waste must be characterized, segregated, and transported. The disposal must also be documented.

In 2009, Children’s became one of the first hospitals in the state of Washington to implement a pharmaceutical waste disposal program – diverting 30 tons of drug waste from landfills and from potentially going into regional waterways and streams.

Reusable Sharps Container Program

Children’s also introduced reusable Sharps containers during 2009 to replace traditional containers for used syringes, hypodermic needles and vials left over after giving injections. This effort prevented 27,000 pounds of plastic and 2,400 pounds of cardboard from going to landfills this year alone, reducing carbon emissions by 16,144 pounds.

“Typically Sharps containers end up in the landfill, so we were particularly interested in reusable Sharps containers from Bio Systems to see if we could eventually eliminate our Sharps containers from going into landfills,” said Mitch Birchfield, Director of Environmental Services and Hazardous Materials at Children’s. “The unique part about the Sharps container recycling program at Children’s is the involvement and commitment to reduce waste by our nurses – their involvement has been incredibly inspiring and they push us to make the program better.”

Sustainable Transportation 

“In 2009, Children’s continued to expand our award-winning efforts to help employees travel to work without their cars,” said Brandenburg. “All told, the alternative commutes taken by Children’s employees in the past year have kept about 600,000 car trips off the roads, saved 200,000 gallons of gas, and avoided 2,000 tons of CO2 emissions.” 

New shuttle service connecting the hospital campus to major transit hubs added green transportation options and boosted transit ridership. The hospital’s bike program includes more than one hundred cyclists riding bicycles paid for by the hospital. Children’s also launched an online commute management system, MyCommuteTools.org, in late 2009. This package of online tools provides alternative commuting information, a commute calendar that awards bonuses for leaving the car at home, and a My Impact calculator to show each employee the impact of their alternative commuting as well as the hospital’s overall. 

Additional 2009 Accomplishments

Other highlights of Seattle Children’s efforts to improve the sustainability of its waste management programs include:

  • Phased out all medical devices containing Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and continue to be mercury-free
  • Shredded and recycled confidential paper to save 2,656 trees from paper mills
  • Reused 50,000 pounds of plastics by using reusable sharps containers
  • Diverted 32,000 pounds of solid waste and recycling from the medical waste stream
  • Reduced 1.1 more tons of hazardous waste in 2009 (compared to 2008)
  • An Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Policy to source products and supplies which are sustainable, and harmless to staff and patients.

Click here for tips on how to dispose of personal Sharps containers. 

About Seattle Children’s

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Seattle Children’s has been delivering superior patient care while advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit www.seattlechildrens.org or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

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