One reusable sharps bin = 500 plastic containers diverted from landfills
Approximately a 3-minute read
- Beginning this month, all single-use “sharps” containers within U-M Health will be gradually replaced with reusable collector bins, which will be sanitized and reused.
- One reusable container can eliminate 500 single-use containers and keep them out of the landfill. That’s more than 75 tons of plastic saved from being thrown away.
- The design of the new containers will reduce employee harm, which occurs from sharps injuries.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. This has long been the rallying cry within the environmental sustainability community. Michigan Medicine, and the U-M campus at large, has made it an integral part of its waste reduction efforts for years.
Now, a new initiative focused specifically on REUSE and REDUCTION will allow U-M Health to make a substantial step forward in lessening landfill impact, while having an added benefit of improving employee safety.
Beginning this month, all single-use “sharps” containers within U-M Health will be gradually replaced with reusable collector bins. The containers, which are used to dispose of needles and other sharp medical instruments, were previously sent to landfills after one use, but the new bins will be cleaned, sanitized and reused through a partnership with Daniels Health.
The environmental impact of this initiative will be impressive. Just one of the new containers will eliminate 500 single-use containers which will divert an estimated 151,156 pounds (75+ tons) of plastic from the landfill. In addition, the new contract with Daniels reduces the amount of raw materials, such as resins, that would normally be purchased to maintain the throw-away container system, while supporting all regulatory compliance issues. U-M Health is also saving $500,000 on start-up materials through the new contract with Daniels.
“The overall impact of the reduction of plastic going into the landfill is significant,” said Janet Abbruzzese, associate chief operating officer, U-M Health Operations and Ancillary Services. “The fact that these can be reused up to 500 times compared to a single disposable container means elimination of over 100,000 containers. It equates to over 258,000 pounds (129 tons) of plastic and 22,000 pounds of cardboard in just one year. To put that in perspective, that equals the weight of five humpback whales!”
One study completed at an 850-bed acute care hospital examining the environmental impact of reusable sharps containers showed an 84% reduction in carbon emissions (equal to 94 tons per year). Daniels Health calculated that for every 100 occupied beds, the bins reduce plastic waste by 7,000 pounds, cardboard waste by 720 pounds and eliminated 4,691 disposable containers.
The design of the new bins also improves staff safety. Sharps injuries represent 68% of the organization’s total reported employee injuries and while much fewer injuries happen during disposal (33 last year) it’s important to strive for zero employee harm. The new containers will likely contribute to U-M Health’s initial goal of reducing total stick injuries by 57%, with a stretch goal of 76%.
“I am so pleased with the steady progress being made by U-M Health and Michigan Medicine, demonstrating our commitment to decarbonizing the health care sector and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions,” said Tony Denton, senior vice president and chief environmental, social and governance officer. “The collaboration with Daniels Health is a good example of working together to make a meaningful difference to improve health and reduce employee harm.”
Throughout February and March, the new bins are being distributed throughout the main medical campus, excluding the Kellogg Eye Center, as part of Phase 1. Phase 2 will include Kellogg and off-site locations. Timing and exact locations will be shared later.
If you wish to learn more about the bins, click here.
Questions about the initiative can be directed to SafetyMgmt-Safety@med.umich.edu. If you have any questions or recommendations pertaining to sustainability at Michigan Medicine, please email email@example.com.
Looking for some good tips on how to personally reduce, reuse, and recycle? Visit Reducing and Reusing Basics | US EPA.
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