Photo by Jeff Krausse, Providence Health & Services
Workers separate recyclable waste at a facility run by Providence Health & Services—Oregon. .

Providence Health & Services–Oregon region, Portland, makes sustainability a part of its mission and its waste-recycling program is a shining example of those efforts.

Providence’s waste-recycling program is so successful that sustainability steward Practice Greenhealth, Reston, Va., calls it one of the best in the nation for the level of waste the health care network diverts from landfills, estimated at 3,000 tons over the past five years, Providence says.

Six hospitals in the network ship their recyclables to a former warehouse converted to a waste-separating facility operated by Providence. The materials mostly consist of plastics, cardboard, aluminum cans, packaging and operating room blue wrap, says Michael Geller, who serves as the sustainability manager for Providence and runs the program.

The program also reflects the health network’s mission of helping those in need. Each weekday, 10 developmentally disabled persons from a sheltered workshop program near the hospital sort through an average of 5,700 pounds of commingled materials that are separated into different streams for shipment and sale to local recycling vendors.

The benefits of the program are priceless, Geller says. It keeps trash out of landfills, but also gives employment to the team of disabled workers who earn pay and a sense of pride and dignity.

“They come to work every day and they work in health care and they’re very proud of that,” Geller says.

The core group has worked for four or five years in the program. The program started about 15 years ago in the basement of one Providence facility and has grown to six participating hospitals with plans to expand.