Moving from single-use, disposable items to reusable items is an effective waste reduction strategy in the operating room, and also reduces upstream environmental impacts because fewer natural resources need to be extracted, shipped, manufactured, produced, and distributed. Reusability of supplies and products should be a priority in every purchasing decision, and the opportunities in the OR abound, including:
- Suction canisters
- Pulse oximetry probes
- Positioning devices
- Surgical linens (gowns, drapes, covers, towels)
- Blood pressure cuffs
- Sharps containers
Today’s reusable surgical drapes and gowns meet verified barrier performance standards and are refined to maximize comfort and ease of use for patients and clinical teams. This is an improvement from the “old days” of cotton and poly-cotton fabrics that offered only minimal protection. With reusable surgical linens, the instruments retained in drapes are returned, as opposed to disposable drapes where the instrumentation retained isn’t returned and often ends up in the trash.
University of Maryland Medical Center has saved close to $750,000 in waste disposal fees over the last 15 years by sticking with reusable gowns and drapes in its operating rooms, which not only reduce costs but provide a higher quality feel and reliable barrier protection.
Practice Greenhealth offers resources that help our members move from disposable operating room items to reusable ones. Our goal is to provide step-by-step resources that make it simpler for any hospital to design, implement, and measure the success of these efforts while maintaining patient safety and high quality care in the operating room.