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{Past Event} - Greening the OR: Medical Plastics Recycling in the OR

September 15, 2011 - 2:00 pm - September 15, 2011 - 3:30 pm -- Eastern Standard Time


The operating room (OR) has one of the largest supply costs across the organization and uses a myriad of supplies for each and every surgery performed. Accompanying the vast majority of these supplies is an array of plastic packaging, overwrap, and sterile wrap as well as rigid plastics trays, pour bottles and more. Most of this material is clean and does not come into direct contact with the patient or is not at risk of being contaminated by blood or body fluids. Historically, these plastic materials—many of which are recyclable--have ended up in the red bag or in regular trash. As recycling programs have become mainstream at many healthcare organizations, the momentum has reached the OR and today’s OR staff is thinking about how to develop viable programs for recycling medical plastics in the OR. While clearly Environmental Services and a viable hauling/collection vendor play a major role in program viability, support and commitment by the OR staff to this program is imperative to setting up a successful program. Come and learn from two different health systems that have set up successful medical plastics recycling programs in the OR.


  • Describe the impetus for a medical plastics recycling program in the OR and the key stakeholders.
  • Highlight different mechanisms for how to assess recyclable plastics in the OR and measure plastic waste generation.
  • Identify successful strategies for partnering with vendors and Environmental Services to recycle material.
  • Outline appropriate strategies for properly segregating clean, recyclable plastics in the OR and storing them until collection.
  • Explain how the organization has engaged and educated OR staff on proper segregation and collection procedures.


Bruce CadwallenderBruce Cadwallender, University of Michigan Health
Bruce Cadwallender serves as the Director-Safety and Emergency Management for the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers, an academic medical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan consisting of 930 licensed beds, 3 hospitals and an ambulatory care services network.  The organization is part of the larger University of Michigan Health System, which is committed to excellence in research, education and patient care. He has been involved with many environmental sustainability efforts for the organization. In partnership with leaders across the organization, Cadwallender and his team have achieved a 50% reduction in the lost-time injury rate, and major improvements in the emergency management program, to include development of a pandemic/mass care plan.


Linda Zengen, Lehigh Valley Hospital & Health Networks
Linda has worked in the healthcare industry for 16 years, focusing on waste management and minimization.  She obtained her degree in Applied Science from Queens Borough Community College, and attended NYU for Fire Science. She worked at Elmhurst Hospital in New York City as the Title Issues Manager prior to joining Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network in 2008.
Linda currently serves as the Waste Reduction Manager for the entire Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Networks which includes 3 hospitals, 9 ambulatory surgery sites, and 115 office practices.  Working with her green teams, Linda has designed and implemented many sustainable initiatives within Lehigh Valley Health facilities.  Most recently, they finished a recycling program which resulted in recycling 85% of OR waste, reducing RBW from 4 bags to 1/2 per case, and working with their vendor to find additional ways to recycle items that were previously not recycled.  Linda is passionate and innovate when it comes to sustainability and waste reduction, and loves her job.

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