Hospitals and healthcare facilities are important parts of our society’s essential fabric. They provide care to those who need it and help save lives, but there are implications of medical activities that many people don’t think about.
Each healthcare facility generates a lot of healthcare risk waste, which can be harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly. There is also an issue with the collection of underweight healthcare waste bins which can result in more miles travelled and more bins being processed and treated.
You segregate, we collect
It‘s a hospital’s responsibility to make sure that healthcare risk waste is segregated to the correct stream at the point of origin. Once packaged correctly and in the appropriate container or healthcare risk waste bag, healthcare staff place the waste in the correct bin and store it in a safe and accessible place. As soon as each bin is full, a collection can be scheduled with Stericycle.
However, due to the increased pressure on resources in the healthcare system, bins are not always filled correctly. This can result in extra bins being collected, processed and safely treated ready for entry back into the healthcare system. This creates several problems, each having a detrimental effect on organisations - and the environment.
The unintentional impact
The maximum capacity of a typical wheeled unit is 770l but the weight of each bin can vary depending on the amount of waste generated by each organisation.
If a hospital has low average bin weights, more bins will be needed to properly cater for the waste generated. More bins requiring collection can mean:
· additional artic truck journeys and more miles travelled;
· greater time spent processing bins at the healthcare site’s waste storage area; and
· extra bins are emptied, disinfected and resupplied to hospitals from the waste
To put this in perspective, if a hospital uses 1000 bins, with an average bin weight of 36KG, by increasing the average bin weight to 45KG, the number of bins used is subsequently reduced to around 750. This reduces the amount of load collections needed & also significantly reduces processing time at the plant.
Healthcare risk waste must be removed from site in a timely and efficient manner while being managed sustainably. This will help contribute to our society’s commitment to minimise the environmental impact of our business operations and help reduce climate change.
To achieve the HSE's public sector obligations under Ireland's National Waste Policy Waste Action Plan for a circular economy 2020-2025, the HSE has recently appointed four new Regional Sustainability Managers. A goal of the HSE Climate Action & Sustainability Section is to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by 10% by 2025 and to recycle 70% of packaging waste by 2035.
Different types of waste must be managed and disposed of differently according to the hazard they represent to people or the environment; and the more that underweight bin collections occur, the less timely and efficient waste management practices can become. This can have a negative environmental impact on our planet.
To help reduce processing and treatment times and safeguard our environment, remember to fill bins safely and correctly. For sharps management, you may also want to consider Stericycle’s Bio System reusable sharp containers that reduce waste, promote recycling and provide alternative uses for plastics.