Monique Citro of UVMC shows off inpatient products made from recycled sterile blue wrap.

Image courtesy of University of Vermont Medical Center

The University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMC) in Burlington has been recycling its sterile blue wrap used to package surgical instruments for nearly a decade. However, up until this spring, the hospital had very little knowledge as to what happened with the 7 tons of No. 5 polypropylene plastic it diverted from landfills each year. In 2016, that all changed when Monique Citro, communications specialist and sustainability coordinator for UVMC’s operating room department, began working with health care solutions company Halyard Health, Alpharetta, Ga., to help pioneer the company’s Blue Renew Wrap Recycling Program.

Today, blue wrap packaging from Halyard Health products used by UVMC is collected and stored by Casella Waste Systems, Rutland, Vt., which, in turn, sends the material to Sustainable Solutions LLC, Gainesville, Ga., a company that provides recycling solutions. Sustainable Solutions melts down the blue wrap and converts it into BlueCON resin pellets that are sold to Care Line, Greenbrier, Tenn. Care Line molds the resin into patient care products such as material handling totes, bed pans and wash basins. UVMC was the first to purchase these new products in early spring.

“This is the power of starting a project and following it through,” says Citro, who spearheaded the original grassroots campaign to recycle blue wrap, enlisting her coworkers to collect and sort the material by hand in between surgeries. “We’ve closed the loop.”

When the new bright blue bedpans and wash basins began replacing the old gray ones made from nonrecycled material on hospital floors earlier this year, they were hard to miss. Clinical staff say the patient care items are working just as effectively and comfortably as the previous ones.

“We put a lot of effort into recycling, and it’s nice to have a product on our shelves that uses that hard work,” says Kathleen Trieb, R.N., shared services supply chain senior project manager at UVMC. “It’s good for patients.  It’s good for our staff. It’s good for the environment.”

UVMC helped expand the Blue Renew Wrap Recycling Program by spreading its recycling knowledge with other health systems. Citro scheduled quarterly phone calls to discuss challenges, celebrate successes and keep others on track.