How we’re cutting down our landfill waste

November 9, 2022 Providence News Team


In this article:

  • In line with Providence’s goal of becoming carbon negative by 2030, the system is working to cut down our waste sent to landfills and hazardous streams by 50%.

  • Improving how waste is managed is an important part of environmental stewardship in the health care community.

  • Every Providence site is creating its own waste optimization plan. In Oregon, one group of hospitals is already making both an environmental and social impact with its recycling program.

On Earth Day, 2020, Rod Hochman, president and CEO of Providence, announced two ambitious goals for the health system by 2030:

  • To be carbon negative
  • To divert more than 50% of waste from landfills and hazardous waste streams

As a major health care system and employer in the region, Providence produces a lot of waste. With strategic planning, a data-driven scorecard and a community-based approach, much of that waste can be reduced or diverted in ways that make a real impact on our community and our planet.

Why waste? 

Providence created our waste optimization and carbon negative goals because it gives us actionable ways of advancing environmental stewardship. Some of these benefits include:

  • Diverting waste from landfills
  • Reducing disposal costs
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Decreasing the amount of materials and products we purchase and use

How Providence is optimizing waste

Providence’s work in waste optimization is based on each ministry’s site-specific plans, which are based on establishing waste streams and proper segregation of waste in three areas:

  • Avoided waste: Reducing waste at the source, which means using, purchasing and consuming less
  • Disposed waste: Avoiding unnecessary treatment of waste as biohazardous or hazardous, and reducing what goes to landfills and waste-to-energy plants
  • Diverted waste: Building waste streams that are less polluting, such as recycling, composting or donations

Meeting these goals requires a collaborative and creative effort across every site in Providence. It also means tracking success with data. That’s why Providence is building a scorecard that tracks the weight, cost, and carbon emissions of all waste streams for each facility every month, including:

  • Avoided waste
  • Biohazardous waste
  • Compost
  • Donations
  • Hazardous waste
  • Landfill
  • Recycling
  • Universal 

Providence Oregon recycling center

One way Providence has already grown our impact in reducing landfill waste is its waste-separating facility in Portland, Oregon, a flagship program in the Providence system. Currently, seven hospitals in the region ship their recyclables to the warehouse. The recycling center diverted just under 809 tons of waste from landfills in 2021.

These recycled materials include:

  • Aluminum cans
  • Cardboard
  • Film plastics
  • Firm plastics
  • Operating room blue wrap
  • Packaging
  • Styrofoam

The center is staffed with adults with developmental disabilities. In collaboration with Full Life, the center offers employment with benefits, job training and more which increases the positive social impact in the communities Providence serves.

Ways you can divert waste from the landfill 

While you’re probably not producing a lot of hazardous waste at your home, there are ways you can reduce your carbon footprint by diverting waste away from landfills. Here are some ways you can incorporate sustainable waste disposal practices:

  • Avoiding single-use plastics
  • Composting food and yard waste
  • Donating items you don’t use any more like clothing, toys and household items
  • Recycling cardboard, paper, glass and cans
  • Taking items like electronics to universal recycling services

We are called to act on climate change

At Providence, we are committed to the ambitious goal we set to become carbon negative by 2030, and we know we will not get there alone. When you visit our facilities, you will see transformations in our processes and operations, from facility management to patient care. This is what we must do to reduce our carbon emissions and improve health outcomes in our communities and around the world.

You can learn more about environmental stewardship at Providence by visiting our blog.


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Related resources

How we’re reducing the carbon intensity of food

A recap of the first Providence Environmental Stewardship report

Water conservation tips to save water at home


This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

About the Author

The Providence News Team brings you the updates to keep you informed about what's happening across the organizational ecosystem. From partnerships to new doctor announcements, we are committed to keeping you informed.

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