Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reduce, Reuse, then Recycle

Well I had planned a future post on recycling.  And medical waste.  Yesterday's post wasn't meant to really address that issue.  But I guess I will do so now.

The principles of recycling aren't just to recycle.  It is first to reduce the amount of waste generated.  Then reuse all items that you can.  And recycle the remainder.  This is where I see hospitals failing.  Recycling bins for paper and glass/soda bottles here and there isn't enough.  I am not specifically saying that the current institution I work for doesn't try to do some recycling.  But I see very little efforts in hospitals to reduce or to reuse.

The current institution and affiliates generate 40 tons of waste per DAY!  Half of it gets removed and potentially recycled.  So that leaves 20 tons of waste per day.  In this case it gets incinerated.  Most hospitals don't incinerate.  To give perspective - in the US each person generates just over 1/2 ton of waste per YEAR.

What gets me is the use of so many things that are now disposable but once which were not.  For example - moving away from cloth sterile gowns to paper gowns.  Think of every mask and bouffant that are thrown into the trash every time someone walks out of the OR.  Most items come individually wrapped.  While some items should be, not everything does.

And the bottles. Oh the number of baby bottles that are generated every day.  I did some rough math - I am guessing we throw 100+ bottles away every day.  Bottles are #5 plastic.  This was once a plastic that wasn't considered to be recyclable.  But times have changed.  It is recyclable.  A company called Preserve will take #5 plastics and use it to make other products.  Many city recycling programs will also now take it.  But not ours.

But better than plastic, why not use glass?  There are brands of non-breakable glass baby bottles.  That can be re-sterilized and reused.

More to come in future posts.  I have ideas.  Don't know if they would work.  But then again - that is why it is a dream.

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