Providence commits to reducing waste in the healthcare industry

March 31, 2022 Beth Schenk


Key takeaways:

  • Waste optimization in health care is complex, regulated, expensive and at times hazardous.

  • With innovative tools and data, environmental stewards and sustainability managers are able to develop a waste management playbook for hospitals to follow to reduce daily waste.

  • A recent live event showcases the amount of waste within the healthcare industry and gives advice and future state plans to reduce it.

Raising awareness about taking care of the environment and the amount of waste that comes from hospital facilities can sound overwhelming. To think that a hospital generates about 29 pounds of waste per patient, per day is astronomical. Experts are looking for a way to reduce that number.

In this recent live discussion, we join together Providence leaders: Beth Schenk, PhD, RN, FAAN, Executive Director of Environmental Stewardship, Geoff Glass, Senior Technical Manager of Energy & Environmental Stewardship, Mike Geller, Oregon Region Program Manager, and Oriana Turley, BSN, CMSRN, Analyst/Program Coordinator of Environmental Stewardship for a powerful conversation on:

  • Waste optimization initiatives – the approach to find beneficial reuses of waste and to minimize what is sent to landfill incineration.
  • System-wide coordination – how 53 ministries across Providence will complete a waste optimization process defined by best practices to ensure that future waste goes to the correct stream.
  • An overall vision -- to roll out a plan to reduce waste across 50 hospitals and 1,000 clinics.

Watch the video below:

Key takeaways:

  • Waste is particularly complex. Data tools give insights at the facility level all the way up to the system level which creates efficiency for carbon emissions and cost.
  • Understanding what happens to waste at a granular level is so important. If we understand where waste goes, we can work efficiently to help environmental stewards educate caregivers on how to get waste to the right streams at the right time.
  • Knowledge is power and our environmental stewards use data to set goals and put plans into place. For instance, there are 30 waste streams every month for 50 hospitals year over year. Schneider Electric is a partner of landfill, compost, and recycling via their resource advisor database.
  • The future state of waste optimization is to partner with physicians to better understand what products can be eliminated in the clinics and hospitals. This will immensely reduce the amount of waste per patient, per day.

Learn more about Providence’s commitment to being good stewards of the environment and ways you can take small actions today to make a difference in the future.

Related resources

Environmental Stewardship Hub

Environmental Stewardship: WE ACT to Reduce Waste

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



About the Author

Beth Schenk is the executive director of environmental stewardship for Providence, leading a cross-functional commitment to reduce operational pollution while addressing environmental justice and climate resilience in the communities we serve. Beth has been a Providence caregiver for over 30 years. From serving as an ICU nurse at St. Patrick in Missoula to leading nursing research across the Providence organization, Beth has nurtured her passion for environmental care. Her first successful recycling project was over 25 years ago. Since then she has led Montana’s award-winning Green 4 Good program. She co-founded Providence’s first regional environmental stewardship council. She has co-led a system-wide monthly meeting on environmental stewardship since 2008.

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