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CT Hospital Eyes Waste Stream Improvements

Ben Cole, for HealthLeaders Media, April 12, 2010

The Hospital of Central Connecticut has announced a commitment to air quality standards and diminishing its environmental impact by implementing waste stream solutions.

The initiatives are implemented with Stericycle, which provides the hospital's medical waste disposal and other services, and focus on reusable sharps containers, proper pharmaceutical waste disposal, and overall recycling efforts.

In May, the hospital will launch Stericycle's Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal Program, aimed at keeping certain medications out of the environment. While the hospital has always followed current state and federal regulations on proper disposal of certain pharmaceuticals deemed potentially hazardous, research is revealing the potential detrimental effects of other pharmaceuticals not covered by regulations, HCC officials said.

"We wanted to make sure everything had its proper waste stream," says Tom Vaccarelli, senior director of facilities at HCC. "It's really the right thing to do with the environment."

Vaccarelli says these programs help HCC minimize the complexities of managing many of the hospital's waste streams. Along with a hospital's regulatory risk and associated costs, maintaining state and federal compliance and focusing on green outcomes are just a few objectives that these programs help HCC meet, he says.

"The regulations are very descriptive . . . and we had all of those items under control," Vaccarelli said. "It's more of the gray area stuff, or even the things that still aren't regulated but we know that number one, its the right thing to do, and number two someday they probably will get regulated."

Pharmaceutical waste can be complex and ultimately affects the nation's water supply if not disposed of properly. The waste must be characterized, segregated, and transported in compliance with EPA, DOT, and other regulators, HCC officials said.

"By handling it the right way and sending it out as a chemical waste, you've identified what it is, [and] it's managed the proper way," Vaccarelli says. "Once it's considered a waste, we manage it internally a certain way, it gets logged in, and stored a certain way, it gets transported a certain way—and ultimately either treated or disposed of a certain way."

The latest initiatives are part of the hospital's efforts to reduce waste and increase recycling, which began in 2004. HCC has also begun using reusable containers for all of its used sharps, such as needles and scalpels, to help keep plastic out of landfills, for example. The hospital expects in one year to prevent 27,553 pounds of carbon emissions by diverting 47,008 pounds of plastic and 2,508 pounds of cardboard from landfills.

The hospital has also established a "green team" that continues to explore avenues that will help HCC reduce its impact on the environment, Vaccarelli adds.

"By using these types of programs, the hospital is driving environmental best practices, staying ahead of regulatory compliance, and reducing costs," Vaccarelli says. "We intend to reinvest these savings in more healthcare programs that benefit our patients, staff, and the community."


Ben Cole is an associate online editor with HealthLeaders Media. He can be reached at bcole@healthleadersmedia.com.

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