It would never occur to us that hospitals are sites that generate a great deal of polluting waste, but think of all the gauze, intravenous bags, paper, disposable syringes, disposable paper gowns, plastic and glass bottles that contain medications, and suddenly, hospitals look like major contributors of landfill mass.
With the increasing consciousness in eco-friendliness, some hospitals have proactively chosen to minimize the waste they produce by recycling and also by ordering medical supplies in kits that minimize packaging as well as ordering adequate rather than excessive amounts of perishable supplies.
St. Joseph Medical Center is an example of how a hospital can earn recognition and improve its image by practicing better waste management systems. Up to 2010, it has successfully kept 217 tons of "waste" out of landfills.
The recognition comes from Practice Greenhealth, a national organization for health-care facilities committed to promoting environmentally responsible operations in the medical field.
The award is significant in that it recognizes any healthcare facilities that have achieved improvements in their mercury elimination, waste reduction, and pollution prevention programs and show leadership in the local community and in the health-care sector for recycling efforts and waste reduction.
Few people realize that hospitals without a safe and efficient waste management system become a source of mercury pollution.
It's a tad ironic that the very place that people go to in order to receive health care is also a place that potentially sickens both the environment and people.
So long as a hospital is without any form of explicit pollution prevention program, it is, by default, a polluter.
Which clinic or hospital do you and your loved ones visit? Does that facility have a streamlined and monitored waste disposal system? These are important questions to ask in order to ensure that our hospitals and clinics don't end up being the source of our health concerns.