Hospitals are starting to recycle and reuse items that are labeled for single use – scissors, scrubs, even surgical blades. The Wall Street Journal (via Earth First) writes that the idea is to save money and clean up the waste stream.
Of course, there are questions about safety. Mostly from – you guessed it – the companies that make single-use devices. They’re lobbying for legislation that would require patients to sign off before health-care providers could use a reprocessed device. The FDA guidelines say that the items need to be sent out to specialized companies who clean and sterilize them.
Still, manufacturers face an uphill battle. Reprocessed items – about 100 devices can now be reprocessed – cost 40 percent to 60 percent less, and can eliminate thousands of tons of waste from landfills.
Ascent Healthcare Solutions, a leading reprocessing company, says that its hospital customers eliminated about 1,684 tons of waste from their local landfills last year, a 31 percent increase over 2006. Kaiser Permanente eliminated about 45.7 tons of medical waste last year by working with Ascent. Catholic Healthcare West, the nation’s eighth-largest hospital system, figures it reduced waste volume by 41 tons.