OR nurses repurpose blue wrap for those in need

Published: 03/03/2020 - 10:57
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Blue wrap recycling

University of Chicago Health staff went above and beyond when they tackled the ever-growing pile of blue wrap coming out of their surgery department. Challenged with luke-warm recycling markets, Amber Kratochvil, operating room associate director, and a group of OR nurses came up with an innovative idea that both reduces waste and helps their community.   

When they presented the idea to the unit-based council (UBC), UBC chair Heather Renken ran with it, establishing a team to start saving all disposable blue wrap that sterile trays come in when they arrive at operating rooms from sterile supply.

Blue wrap was collected for two months, and nearly 75% of the blue wrap was diverted from the landfill. 

With her mother, Renken created a prototype of a sleeping mat for homeless individuals. Using that pattern, nurses donated their time and skills to sew 22 blue wrap sleeping mats in just one day. They were donated to a local organization that provides food for homeless individuals. 

The sleeping mats work well for insulating and providing a warm area to sleep on due to their water-resistant material and high-heat capacity.

blue wrap recycling
University of Chicago Health volunteers from the surgical staff join together to reduce waste and help their community by making sleeping bags for the homeless out of disposable blue wrap.   

“The project has been such a hit that the second event we have almost 30 people and the chef in the local café at U of C is providing boxed lunches for us because he was so inspired by our efforts to help the community and environment,” Kratochvil says. “We now have staff from all over the university, not only the OR, coming to help. Tomorrow is our second event, and we have a more streamlined process so are hoping to make even more mats.”

In 2019, the hospital launched a new sustainability team; Team EAR3TH stands for Employees Aligned to Reduce Reuse and Recycle Toward Health. The team is forming a formal Greening the OR team and recently met with Practice Greenhealth’s operating room sustainability expert Julie Moyle, RN, to build upon their successes. They also have a marketing team and advocacy team.

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