Blue Wrap recycling helping Michigan Medicine go green

February 26, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership
Blue Wrap ready to be recycled.

In December 2019, the U-M Health System began collecting “Blue Wrap” from the C.S. Mott Children’s & Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital (C&W) operating rooms to be recycled into new medical grade plastic products.

Blue Wrap, or sterilization wrap, is a plastic used to maintain the sterility of some surgical instruments used in the operating room. Blue Wrap contributes to almost 20 percent of total operating room waste.  Michigan Medicine now joins other Practice Greenhealth member hospitals who recycle blue wrap.

“As part of our long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability and protecting the planet, this initiative is but one example of a larger strategy to think green,” said Tony Denton, senior vice-president and chief operating officer for UMHS. “I am excited to see this initiative added to our overall plan to reduce Michigan Medicine’s impact on the carbon footprint.”

Blue Wrap is collected in labeled hampers in each of the C&W operating rooms. At the end of each case, the Blue Wrap hamper is emptied and taken with other bags to the soiled holding room. From there, the Blue Wrap is brought to the dock and baled for the recycling vendor to pick up. The vendor can use the wrap to make new plastic products such as bedpans, bins and wash basins. 

Creating positive change

The sustainability initiative came to fruition due to the work and leadership of several UMHS employees. Ashley Stiltner, a periop tech supervisor in C&W, played an integral role in developing the Blue Wrap recycling process in the ORs.

“This was our opportunity to add another material to our ever growing list of recyclables and to help do our part,” said Stiltner. “I think for C&W specifically, we are so innovative and play a huge part in great, unimaginable things every day. Why not put some of that energy into preserving our environment? It is a part of our culture to want to be involved and take part in positive change and making a difference, however possible.”

The success of the Blue Wrap recycling program will lay the groundwork for more sustainability initiatives throughout the health system.

“We were eager to get started collecting Blue Wrap and quickly found ourselves looking for other items to add to this recycling stream,” Stiltner said. “It is always a great experience to partner with other departments within the institution to collaborate on initiatives.”  

Chris Victory, project lead for the Blue Wrap initiative, said he is excited that recycling Blue Wrap will help Michigan Medicine work toward its goal of a 40 percent reduction of waste sent to the landfill.

“Blue Wrap is a high quality product that we’ve targeted to be recycled for some time,” said Victory. “We know, even in these beginning stages, that we are making an impact by diverting plastic away from the landfill and into recycled products that can help people.” 

Up next in sustainability? Expanding Blue Wrap recycling to additional OR sites and exploring other medical plastics recycling opportunities.

Be on the lookout for follow up articles with progress updates on Blue Wrap recycling and other sustainability initiatives! 

Interested in Sustainability? Take the Planet Blue Ambassador Training or email MMrecycle@umich.edu for more information.

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