Peoria, IL,
14:36 PM

New Steps Toward Sustainability

Engineers at the Franciscan Prairie Building in Peoria expand recycling services across the Ministry

On average, hospitals in the United States produce over 33 pounds of waste each day per staffed bed. With over 950,000 staffed beds in hospitals across the country, that results in nearly 6 million tons of waste per year. OSF HealthCare recently implemented single stream recycling services in several facilities in order to reduce waste output just in time for Earth Day on April 22. 

Instead of sorting recyclables into separate bins for glass, paper and plastic, single stream recycling allows people to place everything in the same bin. The recyclables are then sorted after pickup at a facility and distributed accordingly. OSF HealthCare Energy and Sustainability Engineer Patrick Costello says this is simplest way to encourage people to recycle. He works at the Franciscan Prairie Building in Peoria, a pioneer facility in the recycling program. 

"Making it easy and convenient for people -- that's the key to increasing our recycling rates," Costello said.  

Flyers like the one above will be displayed at bins to remind people what can and cannot be recycled.

A portion of hospital waste is non-recyclable, like materials contaminated by bodily fluids or infectious agents. However, the World Health Organization estimates that 85% of waste produced at hospitals is general, non-hazardous waste. In fact, a number of medical supplies can be safely recycled.

“Our operating rooms are actually doing a great job of recycling disposable materials,” Costello said. “Hospital gowns are just one example. The important thing is that we care for the environment without interrupting patient care.”

Beyond recycling, OSF HealthCare has a broad sustainability goal of energy conservation. Earlier this month, OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington conducted a “treasure hunt” across the hospital in order to determine how much money they could save by implementing more efficient energy practices. The result? Over $200,000 in savings per year.

According to Costello, another long-term conservation goal is to install smart lighting that automatically senses presence in a room and turns off the lights in unoccupied spaces.

“Our goal is to implement 'green teams' at each facility," Costello said. "That way, we can continously analyze what we're doing to improve sustainability and look for solutions." 

In addition to the Franciscan Prairie Building and other administrative offices, single stream recycling will be implemented at the OSF Center for Health Route 91, which serves patients. Expanding recycling to hospitals and other facilities that provide patient care is a strong possibility for the future. 

"Our hospitals are already doing a great job of recycling paper, cardboard and even printer cartridges," Costello said. "Becoming more sustainable is a team effort and everyone has a role to play in making a greener OSF."