The weight of disposable single-use sharps containers accounts for a significant portion of plastic in the sharps waste stream of healthcare facilities.
In the last 15 years, waste volume in the sharps wastestream has increased with the adoption of (bulkier) sharps safety devices. The cartons in which the disposable sharps containers arrive also increase the healthcare facility's cardboard waste stream. The challenge for the 103 hospitals studied across this five year case study, was to try and minimise volume and costs of unnecessary waste coming out of their sharps waste stream.
Data on the number, model and size of disposable sharps containers used in the previous 12 months, and the Average Daily Census for that period, was obtained from 103 US hospitals between Jan 2004 and Jan 2009.
Data was gathered on weights of the disposable sharps containers when empty, the number and weight of cardboard cartons in which the sharps containers arrived, and the average weight of sharps contents when containers were 75% full.
The data was collated to determine annually per 100 occupied beds (OB) the:
- number of disposable sharps containers used;
- total weight of discarded plastic (sharps containers + contents);
- proportion of total weight contributed by the disposable sharps containers themselves;
- tonnage of cardboard waste,
- number of sharps containers exchanged when hospitals convert to the reusable Sharpsmart system.
Sharpsmart ran successful trials with the Sharpsmart reusbale sharps containment system in all 103 hospitals studied. The Sharpsmart reusable containment device is FDA 510(k) certified for 500 uses and arrives at the healthcare facilities in reusable transporters. The Sharpsmart is designed to eliminate container-plastic and cardboard waste from the sharps waste stream and, through larger volume collectors, decrease the staff resources required to exchange containers.
Sharpsmart rolled out the its reusable sharps container system across all 103 hospitals, replacing all disposable sharps containers and identifying correct volume requirements needed for each location based on evaluative analysis of historical usage.
Conversion to the Sharpsmart system resulted in a total 28% waste reduction across all 103 facilities, achieving a total waste reduction of 3.9 tons of waste per 100 beds per annum (this consisted of 3.5 tons of plastic and 0.4 tons of cardboard). Furthermore a 51% reduction in container exchange labour was achieved by the install of larger Sharpsmart containers more suitable to volume requirements.
The labour efficiencies of the Sharpsmart system provide opportunities to divert staff time from container exchange to other essential activities, reduce patient interruptions, and reduce injury through fewer container exchanges. Sharpsmarts contribute signficantly to healthcare waste reduction strategies and staff utilisation efficiencies.