Waste Reduction and Diversion
At Rochester Regional Health, we aim to eliminate waste wherever possible through reducing the use of our resources, expanding our recycling programs, and finding innovative ways to turn our wastes into assets.
Hospitals generate enormous amounts of waste; the industry average is about 30 lbs per patient per day. Because of the complex nature of healthcare work, the waste generated is tracked through 15 different streams, including municipal solid waste, hazardous waste, recycling, construction and demolition, sharps, and nuclear waste to name a few. At our five acute care hospitals alone, we generate almost 18 tons of waste per day! Rochester Regional is currently developing a better framework that will allow us to track all of our waste streams through a single system, and identify the areas with the greatest improvement potential. Waste generation is an enormous for the healthcare industry and at Rochester Regional, we are aiming to resolve these problems with unprecedented results through reducing the amounts of waste generated, recycling as much as possible, and converting organic materials to renewable resources.
At our hospitals, we track 15 separate waste streams recycling over 1.8 million lbs of materials annually.
Waste audits recently conducted at Rochester General, Unity, and Riedman suggest that we could be diverting up to 705,925 lbs of food waste from landfills a year, or approximately 15% of the waste generated at our Hospitals. Diverting this material can reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly methane, associated with the breakdown of organic materials in landfills. Methane is particularly harmful because it has a warming effect equivalent to twenty times that of carbon dioxide. Rochester Regional is diverting organic waste from the Riedman Campus to an anaerobic digester in the Rochester area where the organic materials are broken down in a way that then produces methane. Natural gas is around 95% methane, and so the methane generated through this process is able to be combusted on-site to produce electricity, thereby turning our food waste into a renewable resource! The process also produces a nutrient rich slurry which can be used in agricultural applications and displace synthetic chemical fertilizers.
Healthcare data stored on electronic devices is extremely sensitive, and we take securing that information very seriously at Rochester Regional. For all of our electronic devices in need of replacement, usually because they are outdated or too costly to repair, we have to find a replacement while taking the utmost care that we securely remove any sensitive information from the old device. For pieces of equipment that may have sensitive information, we remove the data storage portion, shred it, and recycle the pieces. The rest of the device may be completely fine where the components including the housing and on-board sensors can still be used. Rather than throw out the remainder of the equipment, we work with organizations that re-sell/refurbish the housing and other critical components, into new devices, eliminating the need for many raw materials to be consumed.
InterVol is a non-profit organization that collects un-used medical supplies from local area practices and donates them to the places that cannot afford to purchase them, but need them the most. In 2015, InterVol recovered 29,581 pounds of supplies from hospitals in the Greater Rochester Area, and 20,587 pounds of these supplies were boxed and sent overseas to many third world countries. In addition to providing supplies, InterVol coordinates medical missions across the globe, involving many employees of Rochester Regional as volunteers. Rochester Regional Health hosts Intervol at our headquarters, where donated medical supplies are sorted and distributed to wherever the greatest need is. To find more information about Intervol and volunteer opportunities, please visit https://www.intervol.org/.
Reusable Sharps Containers
For decades, healthcare institutions collected sharps and needles in thick-walled containers and then sent them to be autoclaved (sterilization process using high heat) or incinerated in order to safely destroy any harmful pathogens. This process sent, and still does in many areas, thousands of tons of plastic to landfills every year. At Rochester Regional, we worked with our hazardous waste disposal companies to institute a sharps container recycling program where the sharps and containers are sterilized separately, allowing for the sharps containers to be reused. This saves thousands of tons of plastic from entering our landfills every year.
Have an Idea?
If you have an idea for a new initiative, we want to hear it! Submit your ideas below.