In many facilities, recycling efforts are initiated by demands from building occupants. As emerging generations have come to expect the reuse of waste, facilities are quick to comply. But this wasn't necessarily the case at Wishard Health Services in Indianapolis. Instead, the comprehensive recycling program derived from the staff's own environmental consciousness.

"We wanted to reduce what was going into the landfill," says JoAnn Pardue, director of environmental services, "as well as cut our costs on solid waste."

Introduced in 2008, the Wishard Health Services Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Program was developed by a committee of representatives from various departments throughout the hospital. To guarantee success of the program, committee members also included feedback from other employees within their departments.

"Everyone agreed that it was important that we reduce our carbon footprint," says Andrew Hughes, second shift operations manager. "Recycling is an environmental and cost-effective way to reduce waste."

What's Recycled?

In addition to the traditional plastic, can and glass, Wishard also collects more unique items for recycling. For instance, the hospital partners with a local company to recycle the sharps containers.

According to Pardue, the introduction of this program has considerably reduced needle sticks and improved infection control. Plastic sharps containers are also reused up to 500 times, which reduces unnecessary trash.

Doug Walters, maintenance mechanic in the electrical shop, adds that an onsite bulb-crushing machine is used regularly to contain expired florescent lamps that include mercury.

"The machines are picked up and taken to a plant where they separate the mercury for reuse and melt the glass for proper disposal," he says.

Walters also collects used brass, copper and metal, which are sold to local buyers for reuse.

In terms of paper, the department has made recycling sensitive documents simple by offering privacy bins that protect the content in accordance to HIPA (Health Information Privacy Act) regulations. These bins are locked and marked to notify users of their purpose.

Also on hand is a cardboard compactor, which allows Angelo Moore, supervisor, the flexibility to compress large quantities of cardboard into a manageable size. These bundles are then sold by the pound.

Funds collected as a result of these programs have helped towards the purchase of replacement tools for the department, additional recycling containers or signs promoting the program. In 2010, the Wishard Health Services Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Program generated more than $21,000 from more than 275 tons of recyclables.

Due to their diligence with recycling, the Environmental Services department has not only made money for Wishard, but they have also saved on actual waste.

"Our waste is also measured and billed by the pound," says Pardue. "As a result of the recycling program, the figures for waste have gone down." In fact, they have dropped by about 20 tons in the last five years.

Complete Cooperation

Pardue and her team credit the success of the program to the full support and cooperation of the staff and patrons that pass through the hospital on a daily basis.

"Everyone is so compassionate about the recycling efforts as a whole," says Pardue. "It really doesn't take much convincing for them to comply."

In fact, Eric Balance, operations manager at the hospital, comments that employees will actually rinse cans and bottles out before recycling them. Although this isn't necessary, the Environmental Services crew appreciates the due diligence because it makes for cleaner pickup and reduces the potential for pests.

Simply marking bins with appropriate verbiage and illustrations has helped minimize — almost eliminate — the potential for bin contamination (trash in the recycling bin and vice versa).

"The bins are marked with what goes in which container," says Moore. "The openings are also shaped to help make it easy to dispose items properly."

With such a comprehensive recycling program in place, any additional workload on the Environmental Services department is minimal. Because the program has been so well received by facility personnel, the staff finds themselves having to empty recycling bins more frequently, but trash collection has gone down.

"There are recycling bins at every entrance," says Balance. "With roughly 3,500 employees coming and going, dropping their recyclables, those bins fill up pretty quickly. We make a point to stay on top of them so they don't overflow."

Pardue adds that the buy-in from her staff, as well as that of the rest of the hospital, is what continues to drive the success of this recycling program.

"These programs are in place because we are passionate about bettering the environment for our children and grandchildren," she says. "We are doing whatever we can to minimize what goes into the landfills."

New Wishard Hospital Scheduled For 2013

According to a hospital press release, the expansion facilities of The New Wishard will seek LEED Silver certification, making it one of only 10 hospitals in the country with the designation.

Plans for The New Wishard include numerous design elements and operations that will contribute to its certification — pollution control, energy savings, water usage savings and outside air circulation.

Requirements for any level of LEED New Construction also include "Storage and Collection of Recyclables," which JoAnn Pardue and her team are already on top of. Materials collected for recycling must include at least paper, corrugated cardboard, glass, plastics and metals. Expanding the existing program to the new facility should be an easy transition.

In addition to the recycling program, Pardue plans to expand other existing green initiatives into the new facilities. Examples of what is currently being done are: green trash liners to reduce plastic usage; equipment that uses little to no chemical; non-acid floor care products; microfiber to reduce chemical usage; and recycled paper and tissue products.