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Hospitals Find ROI in Recycling Efforts

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, May 3, 2013

In their relentless quest to contain costs, hospitals and health systems are examining all areas of their operations for signs of waste, even materials once considered trash.

They may be able to save billions of dollars.

Last year, an initiative of 350 hospitals recycled more than 50 million pounds of materials, diverted 61.5 million pounds of construction and demolition waste from landfills, and saved almost $32 million from single-use medical device reprocessing. These figures appear in the first Milestone Report of  the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, a nonprofit coalition whose mission is to reduce healthcare's negative impact on the environment.

Three nonprofits, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), The Center for Health Design, and Practice Greenhealth created the HHI, Together they are working with industry experts to identify six specific measurable sustainability initiatives (renamed 'Challenges'): Engaged Leadership, Healthier Food, Leaner Energy, Less Waste, Safer Chemicals, and Smarter Purchasing.

So far, 700 hospitals have made commitments to the HHI. That includes 13 health systems and 500 independent hospitals, which represent $20 billion in collective purchasing power. HHI estimates that the 2,000 hospitals it hopes to eventually enroll can save billions. The healthcare  industry's shift towards sustainability could influence other industries toward a healthier mindset as well.

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