Officials Report Early Success In Campaign To Reduce Trash And Medical Waste At The Johns Hopkins Hospital
Officials at The Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) report a 200,000-pound decrease in the amount of trash produced each month — a 17 percent drop in just the first five months of a campaign begun in October 2012.
“We began working to reduce our hospital waste by 15 percent. By February, we’d already exceeded that,” said Kristian Hayes, assistant director of general services at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Hayes attributes the overall reduction to a system-wide rollout of a thousand recycling bins. “People responded immediately and began using the recycling bins,” Hayes said. “And that’s been a huge factor in reduced waste.”
Hayes noted that JHH had recycled for years, but in a less-coordinated way. “When we discussed putting a plan in place, we found that there was a real appetite for it from the hospital community,” she said. “The ‘going green’ movement meant that a lot of people were already used to recycling in their homes, so when it came time to implement our plan, it happened really quickly.”
Reducing hospital waste is just one of the goals in an ambitious plan set forth by the Johns Hopkins Health System’s Sustainability Network, officials noted. The network, a diverse group of concerned Hopkins leaders and vendors, released an environmental plan in mid-2011 with the goal of using natural resources responsibly, increasing recycling and making sustainability an institutional top priority.
“Through the work of the Johns Hopkins Environmental Leadership Council, the institutions that are part of the Johns Hopkins Health System are making changes to reduce the system’s environmental footprint and promote a healthier and safer environment for staff, patients and community members,” said Joan Plisko, Ph.D., technical director of Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment.
In addition to reducing overall hospital waste, JHH has dramatically reduced regulated medical waste since last fall, Hayes said. In September 2012, regulated medical waste was more than one-third of the total waste produced at the hospital. By February 2013, the figure was reduced to less than 14 percent. “This was mostly done by changing habits — not by spending money,” Hayes added.
Next steps for the Sustainability Network include conserving energy and water across the entire health system. “The key is to make it as easy as possible,” Hayes said. “And that’s how the plan is designed.”