…Or at least it’s on its way to it. In the 1990s it was reported that doctor’s offices and hospitals in the US produced 2 million tons of medical waste per year! Unfortunately, this number was disregarded by the millions in the field and the medical waste has only gotten worse. In the recent “Go Green” movement throughout the US, doctors have suddenly gained an awareness of their amounting waste. They have begun to notice that perfectly good medical equipment is being thrown away, especially after surgeries. In fact, the Operating Room (O.R.) is responsible for about 30% of all hospital waste! Doctors are becoming more conscious of the amount of medical waste they dispose of daily.
The O.R. is responsible for so much of the waste because a general “O.R. Pack” is given to doctors for use during each surgery. This pack contains all the tools the doctor may need during the operation. Not surprisingly, all of the tools in this pack are not used during one surgery. However, most doctors discard the entire pack at the end of the surgery, including the tools that have been untouched. Now that is a huge waste of perfectly good medical equipment!
This problem of wasting useful medical equipment arose when disposable medical equipment became available to doctors. Doctors and nurses began throwing things away without the slightest thought of recycling. It was not until recently when doctors and hospitals began seeking ways to cut down on medical costs that they realized their outrageous amount of medical waste. Consciousness of what they were throwing away had doctors realize that they could save a lot of money. Most of the medical equipment that they were throwing away could be reused. The equipment simply needed to be recycled and sterilized before re-use. Even the disposable equipment can be reused a number of times (after sterilization). It’s a two for one deal: doctor’s offices and hospitals can cut down on both medical costs and waste by recycling tools.
Recycling tools and materials is a great way for medical facilities to cut back on costs and waste. They can absolutely rely on sterilization to kill the virus. In fact, a doctor and a medical student did research to see if anyone had suffered infections or harm from recycled medical tools. Their results were outstanding: they found none! Devices that have shown even the slightest risk of hazard have been exempt from the “Go Green” process (though these are few). Other devices don’t need as much attention when cleaned for recycling because they have such a low risk. These would include devices that do not penetrate the skin.
If doctors and hospitals choose not to re-use their equipment, there is still no excuse for throwing useful tools away. Many things can be done with this medical equipment. There are non-profit organizations that collect unused medical equipment and redistribute it to places that cannot afford the equipment. This is extremely useful to poorer countries, like Haiti.
In efforts to “Go Green”, medical facilities are also looking to take more environmental measures than just cutting back on waste. They are looking for ways to reduce their energy consumption (especially electricity), as well as improving their indoor air quality. More specifically, the O.R. has considered many other environmentally friendly methods in their campaign for “Greening the O.R.”.