A successful pilot project at Eastern Maine Medical Center focused on reducing waste is highlighting that care for the environment works toward a better future for patients. Over the last year, in just two surgical suites, EMMC’s employees recycled 1.5 tons of waste. Now the department is rolling out the initiative to all of the hospital’s operating rooms.

“There were nearly 800 cases per year in these two operating rooms, and employees diverted an average of four to five pounds of waste per procedure, keeping plastic and other materials out of the landfill,” says Varun Dixit, MD, an EMMC anesthesiologist and the coordinator of the recycling project. “The OR team was able to do this at no extra cost to the hospital.”

The effort began on Earth Day, April 22, 2015, in two cardiac operating rooms after Dr. Dixit worked to find a vendor who would take the recyclables and employees agreed to help by pitching glass, plastic, paper, and cardboard into the green zero-sort bags.

With additional employee education, single-sort recycling bags have been placed in 19 operating rooms, a change that could decrease waste upwards of 10 tons per year.

Dr, Varun Dixit with single-sort bags/EMMC

Hospitals in the US produce hundreds of tons of waste per day, some of which is hazardous material that requires expensive forms of disposal. Operating rooms produce 20 to 30 percent of that volume, tossing out containers for individually packaged items that are then sent to landfills.

Dixit says many people want to recycle and this gives them an opportunity to do it. “This eco-friendly option does not disrupt patient care, really doesn’t take extra work, and diverts a lot of unnecessary waste from going into a landfill.”

Dixit says EMMC continues to work to reduce its carbon footprint and conserve community resources with the use of its CoGeneration Power plant, which provides 97- percent of the electricity to the hospital's main campus.

With the opening of the Penobscot Pavilion, EMMC’s newest wing in June 2016, an energy management system was brought online for the entire new building, which controls efficient LED lighting and adjusts air volume consumption when not in use.

Today EMMC uses less electricity per square foot than it did 10 years ago.