SUMMIT, NJ – Overlook Medical Center, which is part of the Atlantic Health System, is taking surgical blue wrap – a material that accounts for a huge amount of hospital waste – and finding a new purpose for it, thanks to the novel efforts of one of its nurses.
Surgical blue wrap, used to cover sterile surgical instruments and materials, is made of polypropylene, which is lightweight and durable – and also incredibly non-biodegradable. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that polypropylene also accounts for 19 percent of all operating room waste – 255 million pounds annually throughout the nation. Reducing 1 million pounds of blue wrap is the environmental equivalent of taking 250 cars off the road.
Overlook Medical Center uses – and discards – about 15,000 lbs. of blue wrap each year. Tami Ochs, RN, Overlook Inpatient Behavioral Health, a sewing aficionado in her spare time, saw opportunity in that statistic.
After a colleague offered some surgical blue wrap to get the project started, Ochs created a few tote bags, then shared the idea with Overlook’s “Green Team,” which leads the hospital’s numerous environmental sustainability initiatives. The team immediately supported it.
“This idea fit perfectly within our overall objectives of reducing Overlook’s footprint on the environment, by repurposing a material that is found in nearly every operating room, used only once, disposed of while still sterile, and is increasingly difficult to discard,” said Michael Atanasio, Director, Food & Nutrition, Parking and Patient Transportation, who leads the Green Team.
Overlook is now piloting the bags as a replacement for plastic patient belonging bags, which is expected to eliminate 100,000 plastic bags and $30K a year. The hospital is also selling them in the gift shop, and is also planning to repurpose some of the blue wrap for other uses, such as sleeping bags and ponchos for local homeless populations.
The Green Team is looking to expand the initiative to involve community groups and volunteers who can help with the preparation and production of the bags and other products.
To learn how to make the environmentally-friendly bags, click here. For more information you can email Tami Ochs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Atlantic Health System is at the forefront of medicine, setting standards for quality health care in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the New York metropolitan area. Powered by a workforce of 17,000 team members and 4,800 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities, Atlantic Health System serves more than half of the state of New Jersey including 11 counties and 4.9 million people. The system offers 400 sites of care, including six hospitals: Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, NJ, Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ, Newton Medical Center in Newton NJ, Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, NJ, Hackettstown Medical Center in Hackettstown, NJ and Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, NJ.
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