The organization Practice Greenhealth says that the healthcare industry ranks among the largest users of energy and the highest producers of waste, and is a major consumer of paper, water, food and other resources, resulting in an industry with a significant environmental footprint. Diconsiglio (2008) estimates that U.S. healthcare institutions dispose of more than 4 billion pounds of waste annually, making the health industry the second-largest contributor to landfills, which is second only to the food industry. Environmental stewardship in the healthcare environment encompasses numerous components, including eliminating medical supplies that produce toxic byproducts; using waste management strategies and energy and water reduction; engaging in environmentally preferable purchasing and other initiatives.
One related strategy is the reprocessing of reusable or single-use medical devices (SUDs) where appropriate. As Kwakye, et al. (2010) observe, “Already, more than 25 percent of U.S. hospitals … are using reprocessing as a means of decreasing the tons of disposable waste generated annually. We have found it to be a common-sense strategy that uses detailed quality-control standards to recalibrate, clean, sterilize and remanufacture medical equipment. The result has been a significant waste reduction and cost savings.”