With 22,819 day surgeries performed last year at St. Joseph’s Hospital, the operating room (OR) team is making a lasting difference in the lives of thousands of people and their families. While these surgeries have a positive impact on those we serve, there is also a negative outcome – a large amount of product packaging used in surgeries is being sent to the landfill every day. Passionate about the planet, the OR staff put on their thinking caps to address the waste and boost recycling efforts.
Led by interim OR Coordinator Leanne Summers and Environmental Services Coordinator Maynard Fisher, the OR team started by evaluating all packaging discarded from surgeries. Previously, these items landed directly in the garbage. Team members didn’t know what could and couldn’t be recycled, and had concerns about contamination. To address the issue, Maynard recruited Kimberly Perdue from Waste Management – St. Joseph’s waste and recycling vendor – who toured the OR. During her visit, Kimberly worked with staff to categorize various recyclable items in the supply room and identified items that contaminate recycling.
“It was really refreshing to see staff thinking about recycling in their already very busy day-to-day life,” said Maynard.
To move the work forward, three nurse volunteers, Tracey Yule, Hayley Morgan and Linda Kearney, along with nurse educator Chris Zanutto, came together to form the ‘Green Team’. With their encouragement, the OR team performed a one-month recycling trial, focusing on only two items – cardboard boxes and irrigation bottles.
“Our responsibility to our patients extends beyond the walls of this hospital into our communities where we, along with our families and friends, want to thrive in a healthy environment,” said Chris. “We do not want our legacy to be that we contributed to global pollution.”
The one-month trial was a triumph and the team decided to expand the list of recyclables. Since the beginning of April, the OR has observed a huge increase in the number of items collected and even had to request an additional recycling bin. When put to the scale, the team is recycling about 50 pounds of material a day, which adds up to more than 13,000 pounds diverted from the landfill each year.
In the future staff want to recycle anything and everything possible. This isn’t only good for the environment, says the Green Team, it’s good for the hospital too.
From left, nurses Linda Kearney, Hayley Morgan and Tracey Yule are among members of the Green Team in the operating room, where recycling efforts are in full swing.