Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare Keeps 70 Tons of Plastic Out of Landfills

Published On 11/08/2010

In the last 12 months, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH) has kept 70 tons of plastic out of Memphis landfills and reduced carbon emissions, thanks to a reusable sharps (needles) container program. In 2006, MLH transitioned from disposable containers to Bio Systems reusable sharps containers through its waste management vendor Stericycle. This Sharps Management Service keeps an average of 600 disposable sharps containers from going to the landfill for each reusable container.

Based on these resource savings, MLH’s six hospitals have diverted 83,536 pounds of CO2 (carbon dioxide) from entering the atmosphere and have diverted 140,050 pounds of plastic and 12,268 pounds of cardboard away from local landfills over the last 12 months (Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 31, 2010). The carbon diversion is the equivalent to not burning 4,302 gallons of gasoline.

"We want our Associates and all Mid-South families to grow up safer and healthier, so it’s our aim to do what we can to contribute to a better environment," said Trina L. Jones, MLH director of Sustainability. "Reusable sharps containers represent a big improvement in safely removing and disposing of this waste stream. It’s helping MLH to move toward our ‘green goals’ by reducing our carbon footprint and contributing to a healthier community environment."

U.S. hospitals generate 6,600 tons of waste each day1. Whether hospitals choose to use disposable or reusable sharps containers, their regulated medical waste must be properly segregated and disposed for environmental and compliance reasons. Disposable containers end up in landfills, contributing to the sizable carbon footprint the healthcare industry makes.

A fall 2009 study by the University of Chicago Hospitals was published in JAMA2 and found that the American healthcare sector accounts for 8 percent of the U.S. carbon footprint. The analysis found that hospitals are by far the largest contributor of carbon emissions in the healthcare sector, and the second most energy intensive industry3. The EPA is upping its efforts to reduce carbon emissions across the U.S. as part of its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2012 from its 2009 baseline.

As hospitals begin to explore environmental best practices such as reducing waste and implementing sustainable waste management programs to minimize their footprints, “green teams” are seeking additional ways to improve their practices. A 2009 survey by Practice Greenhealth, with more than 700 hospital members, found 64 percent were implementing medical waste reduction programs. Yet few tools exist to specifically help measure a hospital’s environmental impact. The Stericycle Carbon Footprint Estimator4 tool is designed to help U.S. hospitals determine the amount of plastic, cardboard and resulting CO2 emissions they are able to keep out of the environment by switching a healthcare facility or hospital system from disposable sharps containers to reusable containers.

Since 1986, U.S. hospitals using the Stericycle Sharps Management System Bio Systems reusable containers have kept more than 86.4 million disposable containers out of landfills.

Lake Forest, IL-based Stericycle (Nasdaq: SRCL) is a leader in healthcare-related services that protect people and reduce risk. With more than 440,000 customers worldwide, Stericycle has operations in North America, Europe, and Latin America. 

Safe Harbor Statement: Statements in this press release may contain forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties, some of which are beyond our control (for example, general economic conditions). Our actual results could differ significantly from the results described in the forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause such differences include changes in governmental regulation of medical waste collection and treatment and increases in transportation and other operating costs, as well as the other factors described in our filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. As a result, past financial performance should not be considered a reliable indicator of future performance, and investors should not use historical trends to anticipate future results or trends. We make no commitment to disclose any subsequent revisions to forward-looking statements.

1 Zimmerman, G. “The prescription for green health care facilities.” Building Operating Management, June 2009.
2 The University Chicago Medical Center
3 Schwartz, Judith D. “Putting Health Care on an Energy Diet.” TIME, November 10, 2008.