The Paramus Post (NJ)

October 26, 2012

By Mel Fabrikant

The healthcare industry currently produces the second largest amount of solid waste in the United States. While many hospitals have recycling bins in waiting rooms and other common areas, Hackensack University Medical Center has taken its commitment further by instituting a recycling program in all 22 of the main operating rooms. An operating room recycling initiative, spearheaded by team leader Jennifer Pallotta RN, BSN, CNOR along with Joan Banovic RN, BSN, CNOR was successfully implemented in April 2012. This initiative currently makes Hackensack University Medical Center stand out as having one of the largest and most comprehensive operating room recycling program in New Jersey. Currently, HackensackUMC has witnessed a 34 percent reduction in operating room waste.

Pallotta and her operating room colleagues were spurred to action when they read a study, which found that a large proportion of operating room products could be recycled. What followed was a nurse driven, evidence-based study and analysis of HackensackUMC’s own practices and how they could be altered. Beginning in January of this year, data was collected, with the help from Stericycle, a medical waste consulting firm, for three days a week during a two month period. A plan of action was established based on the findings. Pallotta initially focused on recycling the blue packaging in which operating room instruments are wrapped, but found other packaging items such as cardboard, paper, rigid plastic and sterile water bottles could also be separated and recycled. Another positive outcome of the study showed a 50 percent reduction in biohazardous “red bag” medical waste that costs on average 5 to 10 times more to dispose of. Because of this nursing innovation and change of practice, HackensackUMC has lowered its carbon footprint and has also benefited from a significant cost savings…

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