Hospital Blue Wrap

Addressing the low-hanging fruit is a wise first step.  But identifying other fruit may take some doing.bluewrap

St. Luke’s Health Systems is the largest hospital system in Idaho.  I was hired to identify and implement waste diversion and recycling initiatives to reduce operating costs and promote environmental benefits. Initially we targeted low-hanging fruit, including conversion of one of two 30-yard compactors for OCC (old corrugated containers – mistakenly called cardboard) recycling. Another cost-saving initiative was the commingled collection of multiple items from throughout the hospital and satellite medical centers.  Assets including magazines, newspapers, plastics, aluminum and tin cans, paperboard and non-HIPPA paper are collected in containers lined with clear plastic bags.  The cost for rental and hauling of the recyclables to the local recycler are less than the cost of hauling and tipping waste at the local landfill.
  More inspection of the trash compactor revealed the Operating Room Department (O.R) was the largest single contributor of solid waste. Observing three surgical procedures in the OR: a breast biopsy, back surgery and shoulder joint replacement revealed 80% of the waste was generated before the patient was wheeled into the room.  Considering everything in the surgical room is sterile, assets to be recycled are contaminant-free.  One thing the procedures have in common is the use of a cloth material called Kim Guard Wrap: commonly known as blue wrap.  It is actually polypropylene plastic cloth designed to wrap surgical instruments prior to sterilization.  Once transferred to the OR, the instruments are unwrapped and the cloth is considered a waste. Surgical staff verified 20% of the waste in the O.R. solid waste garbage bag is blue wrap.

Changes in procedures were instituted and now hospital staff segregate the cloth from other recyclables and trash using clear bags. The bags are transported by housekeeping staff to collection bins located near the loading dock. The result: St. Luke’s successfully diverted a large portion of plastic assets from their waste stream and reduced their operating costs.  

This initiative is underway at two of the hospitals operated by St. Luke’s.  Once proven and continued as a standard operating practice, this triple bottom line project will be implemented on other hospital campuses.