How hospitals can go green, save green with food waste disposal

Thanks to the Ebola outbreak, much attention has been paid to hospitals' handling of medical waste, but improving how to deal with a slightly more appetizing subject--food waste--is crucial for providers looking to modernize and cut costs, notes a recent article from Triple Pundit, which reports on ethical and sustainable business practices.

Food contributes to about 10 percent of a hospital's overall waste stream, according to a Sustainability Roadmap report from the American Hospital Association (AHA). So in an effort to improve their bottom line and be more environmentally friendly, healthcare providers are getting creative about how to deal with all the uneaten Jello and picked-at peas.

St. Cloud Hospital in Minnesota has drawn attention and accolades for installing a system that converts its food waste into nutrient-rich soil that's used in the landscaping on hospital grounds, USA Today reported. The article also highlights Indiana's Columbus Regional Hospital, which added a dehydrator to its food waste disposal system to dramatically reduce the size and volume of materials sent to the landfill.

Other ways healthcare facilities can go green include locally sourcing hospital cafeteria food, reducing the facility's carbon footprint and rethinking how hazardous chemicals are handled, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For hospitals seeking slightly less drastic solutions to reducing food waste, Greenhealth Magazine offers a few tips to get started:

  • Provide choices for patients at mealtimes so they can pick meals they want to eat

  • Establish a compost program to divert food scraps from landfills

  • Implement a system to recycle paper, plastic and glass throughout the facility

  • Work with food distributors and retailers to prioritize the purchasing of food options in bulk, without plastic packaging or with recyclable packaging

  • Distribute reusable water bottles to promote drinking tap water and provide filtered drinking water stations

These sustainability efforts not only reduce harm to the environment, but can save healthcare facilities millions of dollars, FierceHealthcare reported.

"If a facility is not recycling at least 20 percent of its waste, it is tossing resources," notes the AHA report. "Waste management initiatives offer tremendous opportunities for a facility to reduce both its environmental footprint and its supply chain and waste disposal expenses."

To learn more:
- read the Triple Pundit article
- check out the USA Today piece
- see the AHA report
- read the Greenhealth article