Kaiser Permanente makes a significant effort to reduce the amount of waste we generate by implementing vigorous waste reduction programs throughout our organization. Our waste reduction policy requires facility managers to track and report annual volumes of waste generated so that we can effectively measure and manage our progress.
Most of the waste generated in health care operations is similar to that generated by non-medical organizations such as paper, cardboard, bottles and cans, computers and other electronic equipment. But health care also has unique waste streams such as biohazardous waste, radiological waste, and hazardous waste such as solvents. Waste must be properly managed and treated in order to prevent public health problems.
We are making tremendous strides in eliminating waste across the organization. But we recognize that we can do better, and we have therefore committed to reuse, recycle, or compost at least 40% of our waste materials systemwide by the end of 2015.
By reprocessing, selling, or recycling our used medical equipment and devices, we divert more than 300,000 pounds of waste from landfills each year. Our electronic medical record system, now in use across all of our medical facilities, has dramatically decreased the use of preprinted paper forms. And we involve our staff and physicians in campaigns to reduce the use of plastic bags, single-use water bottles, and office paper.
To learn more about our waste reduction efforts, download our factsheet.
What you can do
- Contact your local recycling management company to make sure you have the latest information on what your business or household can recycle. As different recycling and reprocessing opportunities become more available in your community, you may find that items you once thought disposable are now recyclable or reusable.
- One of the greatest ways you can reduce waste is not to produce it in the first place. Where possible, consider reuse of items, buying second-hand, limiting purchase of goods that are less necessary. It will be good for the environment and generally good for your pocketbook as well!
- Consider conducting a waste audit at your business facility to examine what comes in to your facility and what (and how it) leaves. Use the results of the audit to identify wasteful practices and develop a waste management strategy that incorporates waste reduction, reuse, and recycling measures.
- Collect and store used motor oil or antifreeze in a sturdy plastic container and take it to a recycling center. Take used or damaged car batteries to auto stores that stock or repair lead-acid batteries for safe disposal.
- Electronics are one of the fastest growing portions of America’s trash. Safe recycling of electronics supports responsible management of toxic chemicals such as lead and mercury. Before replacing old computers, consider donating them to a school in need. Consider buying used computers, or making simple upgrades to your own computer that can enhance the computer’s capacity. Buy rechargeable batteries. They can be used for longer periods and will likely be less expensive than disposable batteries in the long run.
- To help reduce waste, use two-sided printing and copying, buy supplies made with recycled content, and recycle used printer cartridges. Take your used printer ink cartridge to a company that remanufactures cartridges for reuse. Many companies that refurbish the cartridges will offer store credit for your used cartridge.
- For many years, many households and businesses have gotten into the habit of flushing waste pharmaceuticals down the toilet or pouring them down the drain because it is low cost and appears to be the simplest way to prevent unintended use or other diversion. However, wastewater treatment plants and septic systems are generally not designed to treat pharmaceutical waste. Learn about the FDA’s guidelines on proper drug disposal or search out drug take-back programs in your community. To find a pharmacy that participates in the unused or expired medication disposal program, use this locator page.