Adventist Medical Center generates close to 10,000 pounds of potentially infectious medical waste a month. Last July, the medical center installed a mechanism to sterilize the waste and make much of it recyclable.
Red Bag Solutions Inc., a Baltimore company that provides solutions for the disposal of biohazardous material, supplied the medical center with its 'waste destruction technology,' which transforms infectious medical waste, such as syringes, into an uncontaminated, confetti-like material in a matter of minutes.
'It met the sustainability goals that the hospital center wanted to meet, and references came out very well from a number of other hospitals across the country that used it,' said Myron Krause, director of Material Management.
By turning the waste into small shreds, the machine reduces the volume by 90 percent. Stericycle, a Portland medical waste pickup service used by a variety of the city's hospitals, would pickup a small percentage of that, while the rest would be recycled.
By recycling the material rather than transporting it to landfills - many of which are hundreds of miles away - the medical center could meet its plan to reduce and recycle more than 75 percent of the waste it generates while potentially saving thousands in disposal costs.
Doing things differently
Adventist Medical Center is still using Stericycle for all of its waste, instead of putting the machine to work making money by recycling for other partners. However, Ervin Gruia, co-chairman of the center's Sustainability Council, says the business plan has been to test the market and measure the machine's output before working with any potential recycling partners.
'We're getting the data, and there are several vendors we are talking to, but I think it's going to be another two weeks before we can tell you exactly who we are contracting with and how much will exactly being going to them,' said Gruia.
Other Portland hospitals have taken steps in recent years to go green as well. A year ago, Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center installed a trash shredder to handle waste from five Legacy hospitals and one clinic. The shredder works a lot like the nine-foot-tall Red Bag Solution machine, turning mounds of waste into confetti-like shards.
In 2003, in addition to its other recycling programs, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center installed a machine that sterilizes and vacuum-packs waste before it's hauled to landfills.
Gruia says, however, that Adventist Medical Center has the same goal as the other hospitals, but it doing things differently.
'What we do is shred and sterilize the stuff differently," he says. "The stuff there's a market for, like plastic, we do (recycling), and the stuff without a market, like gauze, we send to landfill.'