When it comes to sustainable initiatives at health care facilities, energy-efficiency upgrades and water-saving measures typically top the list. However, from our 2015 Sustainable Operations Survey (look for it in Health Facilities Management's October issue), we know that water and energy aren’t the only categories ripe for sustainable improvements.

The trend of health systems looking at ways to minimize waste and safely reduce the cost to handle waste through sustainable measures is gaining ground, which is good news considering hospitals produce more than 5.9 million tons of waste annually.

Some of the measures today's hospitals are taking include implementing an integrated waste stream system, which saved one hospital $28,000 annually, and consolidating regulated medical waste handling under a single vendor, which saved another facility more than $1 million last year.

According to this year's survey, 40 percent of respondents track and report savings from waste stream reductions, and 48 percent report they have reduced waste stream expenditures by up to 30 percent over the past year after implementing sustainable measures. Those numbers are promising but could be better, as almost half of the respondents are not tracking and reporting waste stream reduction savings, and 45 percent of respondents don't know if they have reduced waste stream expenditures over the past year.

In an article on reducing waste removal spending, expert Dan Schneider says that while waste removal often is overlooked when health facilities look to reduce operational costs, it is "almost always rife with opportunity."

The first step, Schneider says, is to delineate a facility's waste streams and look for reduction opportunities unique to each one. He then talks about simple ways to make sure facility managers are not paying extra due to negligence.

Check out the resource from the Association for Healthcare Resource & Materials Management called "10 Steps to Implementing a Regulated Medical Waste Reduction Plan." Step No. 10: Track your progress, report successes and reward staff.


View survey results