doeHealth Care Waste & Toxics Reduction Tips

for small and medium size health care facilities


Health care facilities of any size can implement changes to administrative practices that will improve waste reduction and resource efficiency efforts.  


adminReasons for Change

Many administrative services such as billing, record keeping and documentation, printing, copying, shipping and receiving generate large amounts of municipal solid waste. Recycling items such as paper, glass, aluminum cans, cardboard, plastics, computer equipment, batteries, fluorescent lamps at workstations, aerosol dust spray, batteries, fluorescent lamps at workstations, aerosol dust spray,  printer and copier cartridges, wood waste and scrap metals will drastically reduce your solid waste output. Administrators plan, coordinate and supervise the functions of health care facilities and the staff.  This provides them the opportunity to implement policies ensuring efficient operation and environmental excellence.

By assessing and implementing one or more of the practices described here and on the accompanying downloadable table, health care facilities can enjoy:

          • Reduced regulatory obligations and oversight

          • Increased safety and reduced risks for patients, staff, visitors and the community

          • Less waste in raw materials, by-products, work space, work flow, and staffing

          • Improved cost control at your health care facility 



Opportunities for Action

Specific tips on ways sterilization/reprocessing services can reduce and prevent toxic wastes and resource inefficiencies are listed in this fact sheet’s downloadable/printable table. A sampling of these tips is listed below.

Basic Best Management Practices

  • Use vendor take-back programs.

  • Sell or donate excess durables to clinics, shelters, and foreign medical aid.

  • Place mercury spill kits in mercury use areas if you do not use a clean-up contractor.

  • Implement a battery collection program.

  • Purchase green certified products for general office cleaning (i.e., desk, counters, computer monitors).

  • Use rechargeable batteries.

  • Purchase products containing post consumer recycled content.


Next Steps to Improve Administrative Practices

  • Implement an environmentally preferable purchasing policy.

  • Start a mercury elimination program. Buy mercury-free products and equipment (digital sphygmomanometers and thermometers, tilt and float switches, reed or displacement relays, thermostat probes and plungers)

  • Improving waste segregation systems to increase recycling and reduce solid waste.

  • Buyand use durable products and materials instead of “use-once, throw-away” items.

  • Recycle and purchase products with recycled content.

  • Use energy efficient computer equipment, lights, and appliances (Green Star/Lights Program).



Additional Resources

This resource guides home page has links to additional fact sheets in this series, plus other useful tools and information from the Washington State Department of Ecology and other experts.

Practice Greenhealth has environmentally preferable purchasing.information, including case studies and contract language.

See the Green Guide for Healthcare.for good facility-wide information.

Another sample environmentally preferable purchasing policy, this one in Microsoft Word.

The Responsible Purchasing Network provides procurement tools and resources designed to save money, reduce waste and improve efficiency.

The EPEAT tool will help you select electronic products based on their environmental attributes.

See an EPEAT success story at Kaiser Permanaente.

Itasca Medical Center did a case study on waste reduction practices.

View a full report on the costs and benefits of green building.

Energy Star has a vast array of tools and information on energy cost-saving opportunities



This information is brought to you by the Washington Department of Ecology/Toxics Reduction Unit with assistance from the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC) . June 2010