United States hospitals produce more than 5.9 million tons of waste
annually, which is why UnityPoint Health - Des Moines is constantly
taking steps to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. Waste has a
larger impact than the space it takes up in landfills. It produces
greenhouse gases as it decomposes, contributing to air pollution and climate
change. UnityPoint Health - Des Moines has implemented a number of recycling
initiatives to reduce waste along with healthcare costs. While some of what a
hospital disposes of must be handled in a special way, much of our waste is no
different from that of an office building and can be recycled.
Medical Supplies Reprocessing
Since 2005, we've been working with Stryker Sustainability Solutions to spare metal surgical instruments, pulse oximetry sensors and single-use items such as ultrasonic scalpels from landfills. The instruments are cleaned, sterilized, inspected and must meet original manufacturer specifications before being sold back to our hospitals at a reduced rate, which allows us to avoid waste disposal costs while saving costs due to not having to buy as many new supplies. All of this lowers healthcare costs by increasing value. Any instruments that cannot be reprocessed are recycled, which benefits the environment and manufacturing supplies.
Food Waste Reduction
Globally, an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food waste goes into the landfill annually, which means nearly 28 percent of farmland worldwide is used to produce food that is wasted. In addition to wasted resources, this results in roughly 3.3 billion tons of CO2 being released in to the atmosphere. UnityPoint Health - Des Moines has taken steps to reduce our food waste by partnering with GreenRU, a Des Moines based company, and we have incorporated food composting into our kitchens and cafeterias. This has allowed us to significantly reduce the amount of food waste sent to the landfill. We also have the opportunity to purchase the compost back at a reduced cost and use it as fertilizer.
By the Numbers
Composting began as a pilot project at Lutheran Hospital in June of 2011 until August of 2012. During that time 32.38 tons of food waste was diverted from the landfill. 2013 was the first full year of composting at all three locations.
2013 Composting Numbers:
Iowa Methodist: 76.61 tons
Iowa Lutheran: 45.15 tons
Methodist West: 23.72 tons
TOTAL: 145.48 tons
2014 Composting Numbers:
Iowa Methodist: 83.38 tons
Iowa Lutheran: 51.04 tons
Methodist West: 22.61 tons
TOTAL: 157.03 tons
In 2013 UnityPoint Health - Des Moines introduced single stream recycling across all campuses, making it easier for everybody to recycle. In addition, we also donate a significant amount of old furniture and medical supplies which often times get sent overseas to those in need.