Case Study: Reducing over 50 tons of sharps container waste
Climate change is the topic on everyone’s minds as we look towards the future. As our populations grow, resources dwindle, and medical needs increase - so does our single-use waste. Many are asking the important question of, “What is healthcare, both as an industry and individual entities, doing to slow climate change and reduce their impact?”
It’s easy to fall into a bit of despair when thinking of the challenge presented with protecting our planet; however, Sharpsmart has always presented products, strategies, and services targeted toward sustainability. We root our success in case studies, research, and facts.
Fact: By implementing Sharpsmart's reusable sharps containers and efficiency solutions, after two years of use, New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) reduced over 50 tons of sharps container waste from going to landfill.
Fact: NHRMC also lowered their biomedical waste by over 53% with help in training, efficiencies, and solutions from Sharpsmart.
If you’ve read this far, you probably have one question, “How?”
Sharpsmart is not your average healthcare waste management partner. We specialise in reusable healthcare waste containers that are scientifically safe and improve efficiencies when handling biomedical waste in a healthcare setting. Once we entered or partnership with NHRMC, our first task was to install reusable sharps containers throughout the hospital. Then, after 18 months, we further optimised their healthcare waste management by installing our reusable cytotoxic waste containers in their new Cancer Center.
In the era of reusable water bottles, straws, and more, why wouldn’t you choose a sustinable container for healthcare waste as long as it protected your staff and patients? To learn more about what makes our containers so safe - go here.
As with all good things, time is required. This ecological change for NHRMC didn’t just happen overnight. Let’s take a trip down memory lane together, shall we?
Phase 1 / We met with Material Management, EVS, Clinical Care Administration, and Facilities Management to explain who Sharpsmart is and what we can provide NHRMC. We showed our reusable sharps container, the Sharpsmart (yes we know it's also the name of our company), to their team and went over the DCS. We were then given a copy of the current purchase volume of disposable sharps containers.
Note: all disposable sharps containers are single-use and end up in a landfill. This isn’t to shun NHRMC’s choice at the time, many facilities still use this solution. However, all that single-use plastic does add up over time and causes environmental burden. Sharpsmart offers a greener and safer alternative.
Phase 2 / We conducted a walk of the hospital to understand their layout and current challenges with their current program. Our team met with the nurse managers to show them the Sharpsmart sharps container. After speaking to facility staff, we discovered they were using 5.6 qts sharp containers in all the rooms and between 45%- 66% of clinical waste coming off the floors was sharps waste. This caused EVS to have to constantly run full infectious waste bags from floors to the dock for disposal.
To unpack this a bit further, what do the single-use sharps containers and clinical waste have to do with each other? Aren’t those two different things? Yes and no. Yes, they are two different waste streams, but they can be disposed of in the same larger bag or box - that is yellow. For example, if I was a clinician and had a few blood-soaked bandages, I would put them in the yellow bag designated for clinical waste. Also, if myself or EVS notices the single-use sharps container is full, it can be sealed and put into the yellow bag for disposal. These single-use sharps containers are inefficient and cause red bags to fill up much faster - which increases a facilities' total cost of disposal.
To use a more relatable example: imagine a large recycling bin, the ones with wheels. You’ve just carried your carefully broken-down boxes and cans from your apartment or house to dispose of them like a good citizen of the world. You open the lid and - gasp! Your neighbor Barbara didn’t even try to break down her numerous Amazon Prime boxes. Her empty boxes fill the container and fill you with annoyance. It is important to be efficient when it comes to waste disposal - we do that by eliminating single-use sharps containers going into yellow bag waste.
Phase 3 / The Sharpsmart team returned to meet with the NHRMC administration team to discuss what we saw on the ward walk and presented a proposal along with suggested plastic reductions by changing to reusable sharps containers. We also showed them how this would reduce the amount of time EVS would have to pull red bags and that the Sharpsmart S22 sharps container had 4x’s the fill rate capacity to their current sharps container.
So not only are we reducing plastic - we’re reducing labour! Sharpsmart believes in a holistic approach to healthcare waste management. All of our systems are designed to promote: safety, sustainability, education, efficiency, and reduction of total costs.
What did our partner think of our solutions?
We are proud of our solutions and commitment to the environment. However, let’s conclude this waste reduction saga by hearing from NHRMC themselves:
“Sharpsmart has been very instrumental in moving NHRMC in the reduction of waste that was being placed in landfills to becoming more aware of the ability to be a “Green” Hospital. The first two years showed a reduction of over 50 tons of sharps from going into landfills. The efficiency of their program has helped the staff tremendously as well. This is a great program and a true partnership.”
-Richard McCormick, EVS Director
If you are interested in reading more of our case studies click here.