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Archive March 2019 XX, No. 3

Ideas That Work: Waste Management

Why Are We Throwing That Away?

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
SEEING RED The visual aid reminds staff of the difference between regular trash and red bag trash when it comes to disposing of sponges.

Ever take a close look at your trash? When we did, we found we were needlessly throwing away sponges and supplies.

  • Sponges. Only sponges that are grossly saturated in blood need to go in the red bag for biohazardous trash, but staff were putting nearly all sponges in the red bags. We created a visual aid (above) to remind staff of proper disposal practices. It costs 6¢ per pound to dispose of regular trash compared to 22¢ per pound for red bags, so simply following our policy has reduced our waste disposal fees.
  • Procedure packs. We audited the instruments and supplies on our back table and found items that were often untouched or unnecessarily opened during surgery. We've narrowed our focus to determine what we need on our back table and customized our procedure packs based on our findings. Those changes have helped us keep our costs for supply waste flat, even as our case volumes increase.

Ross W. Simon, BA, and
Kelly Gamboa, MSN, RN, CNOR

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Boston, Mass.

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