Hospital Recycling Program

Hospital Recycling Program

The following is for guidance information only. Your hospital may have recyclable materials specific to your facility. Each hospital should closely examine all the materials that are being generated and discarded and begin to look at those materials that can be recycled.

What materials should a hospital collect in a recycling program?

  • Newspapers
  • Aluminum Cans
  • Office Paper
  • Corrugated Boxes
  • Computers
  • Steel Cans
  • Rechargeable Batteries
  • Pallets
  • Mercury
  • Laser/Ink-jet Cartridges
  • Textiles
  • Fluorescent Lamps

What type of collection containers or other storage containers are needed to collect recyclable materials for a hospital recycling program?

In most cases, recycling at hospitals occur behind the scene due to space constraints in many areas of the hospital. It is very critical that in the disposal area containers are established to collect separately metals and plastics from the remaining garbage. Larger storage containers can be placed on the dock or other defined location to collect office paper, newspapers, steel and aluminum cans, plastic bottles and textiles. Corrugated boxes, which often represent 40 to 50% of the waste stream of a hospital should be baled on-site or placed in a dedicated compactor for recycling. The recycling of corrugated containers is the key element of recycling in a hospital and can play a critical role in the reduction of solid waste disposal costs. This should be the first material to be recycled along with office paper and textiles.

Containers should also be established in the administrative office areas of the hospital for collecting office paper. Containers should also be established for collecting rechargeable batteries and laser and ink-jet printer cartridges for shipping back to recyclers of these materials. Used fluorescent lamps should be stored in the boxes in which the new lamps came and then collected by a fluorescent lamp recycler for disposal/recycling of this hazardous material.

In addition, the Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction Program has developed materials contained in a 3-ring binder listing manufacturers of recycling collection containers, curbside bins, carts, storage bins and trailers. The binder has brochures as well as contact information on each manufacturer of recycling collection equipment. Contact the Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction Program staff at MDEQ and we'll be happy to send out on loan a copy of this binder. Click here on Recycling Container Manufacturers to view a list of manufacturers of various recycling collection and storage containers. Many of the recycling container/trailer manufacturers are also on our Recycling Links page. Click here on Links to Recycling Container/Trailer Manufacturers.

What type of equipment is needed to operate an hospital recycling program?

The only equipment that would be needed for a hospital recycling program would include a vertical baler and a pallet jack to move the bales of corrugated boxes after they have been baled. This would only be necessary if a separate dumpster or compactor dedicated for corrugated boxes could not be established and serviced by a local recycler. In most cases with large hospitals a vertical baler can often show a payback of less than two years depending on the quantity of corrugated boxes generated at the hospital. Click here on Recycling Equipment to view information detailing recycling processing equipment.

How should recyclable materials be processed for marketing?

Often there is no need to process any type of hospital recyclable material other than corrugated boxes. Most of these materials can be collected from the hospital by a local recycler in the containers where they are stored. This will have to be discussed with your local recycler. Click here on Processing Recyclable Materials to view information on processing these materials.

Where can collected/processed materials be marketed?

The Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction Program has compiled a list of markets for various recyclable materials. Click here on Recycling Directories to view these directories. The State-wide Recycling Directory lists profit and non-profit recycling facilities in the state which accept a wide range of materials including metals, paper, and plastics. There is also a number of directories for specific materials including paper, plastics, scrap tires, used motor oil, fluorescent lamps and mercury and computer/electronics. If you have any questions on materials which are not listed in these directories, contact our program and we'll be glad to assist you.

How should participants in the program be educated on recycling?

Education is the key to a successful recycling program in any hospital. The more you can educate, the higher the participation you will have, the less contaminants you'll find in the collected materials, the fewer complaints you'll receive, the more efficient your program will be in the long run, and the lower your garbage bill will be each month. At minimum you should provide quarterly flyers, e-mails, or announcements to hospital staff to continually remind people on program issues, alert them of contamination problems and notify them of any changes in the program. Similarly, you should meet with the janitorial staff to see what issues arise with the program and how problems can be resolved. The Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction Program has numerous resources that can assist your hospital in educating your staff or patrons on recycling. We have samples of recycling education flyers, educational resources, trained recycling education speakers, and presentation materials. Just contact us and let us know what assistance you need.

Where can the savings be found in establishing an hospital recycling program?

Great question, but a very simple answer. Monitor for one month the garbage dumpster at your hospital. If it is a 4 yard to 12 yard dumpster, it is important to look in the dumpster just prior to pickup by the garbage contractor to see if the dumpster is being used to near capacity. If you have a recycling program established for paper and corrugated boxes, your garbage dumpster may not be full when the garbage contractor picks it up. Remember, whether your garbage container is completely full or nearly empty, you're charged the same amount when they service your dumpster. You should then either reduce the size of your garbage dumpster or the frequency of pickup. This is where the savings begin to show up in a hospital recycling program. If you have a garbage compactor, consider having a pressure gauge installed on the ram head hydraulic line. The specifications for that compactor will state what the design maximum pressure should be for that unit. Often these compactors will need annual maintenance and this can show up as lower pressure reading on the gauge. Without annual maintenance, the compactor will "pack out" prior to design capacity and cost the facility unnecessary pull charges. The cost of installing this pressure gauge will pay for itself in less than a year.

What are some websites that can provide good information on recycling and pollution prevention within health care facilities?

Minnesota Technical Assistance Program

Kentucky Pollution Prevention Program

Hospitals for a Healthy Environment

Sustainable Hospitals