Monday, June 17, 2013
Those materials are often disposed with red bag waste, but several organizations are attempting to recover these items and redistribute them to hospitals in need.
MedShare, one of the largest medical surplus redistributors, in its last fiscal year collected 550 tons of surplus medical supplies and redistributed them to hospitals in developing countries, medical mission teams and free clinics in the U.S. Founded in 1998, the non-profit organization currently operates two volunteer and distribution centers, one in San Leandro, Calif., and the other near Atlanta, Ga., that together work with more than 80 hospitals to recover surplus supplies and equipment.
Hospitals generate an estimated 2 million tons of waste per year. A study of the San Francisco Bay Area showed hospitals were the third-largest waste producers among 48 studied types of businesses, said Chuck Haupt, executive director of MedShare's western region.
MedShare works with the hospitals surrounding its distribution centers to divert more than 5,000 types of medical supplies, and also accepts working equipment that has, for example, been replaced by a newer model, along with donations from national manufacturers and distributors.
A common challenge in recovering medical surplus is that a large portion of items collected are unusable. Donated supplies may be expired, or equipment is too expensive for a hospital in a developing country to maintain. MedShare aims to minimize that challenge by educating their partner hospitals on what items can be donated.
"We work with the hospital executives to develop a diversion program that benefits the hospital, and benefits the local community, and certainly benefits the recipients that we ship aid to," Haupt said.
MedShare sets up recycling barrels in hospitals wherever a large amount of supplies are used — operating rooms, emergency rooms, etc. — and trains staff to know which items can be recycled. The contents of the bins are then collected by MedShare, which asks hospitals for a donation to cover transportation and other costs.
All supplies are weighed upon reaching a MedShare distribution center, where volunteers then sort the items and prepare them for shipment. Occasionally, hospitals will still donate items that are expired or otherwise unusable, but that is "a very small percentage," Haupt said.
To ensure materials will be properly used, MedShare requires potential recipients to submit an application for aid. In addition to hospitals in developing countries, the organization also supplies traveling medical groups and domestic clinics. The application includes a series of questions intended to verify that recipients are trained in using the items and authorized to accept charitable aid. If approved as a partner, recipients then have access to MedShare's unique online ordering system, where they can pick out exactly what they need.
"What makes us a little bit special is that what we do is establish an online database that's analogous to like Amazon.com," Haupt said. "After we establish a partnership with an overseas hospital in the developing world, they will ... go online and order exactly what they want from us. ... Most aid organizations, while they're doing good, they could do better by allowing the recipient to order what they need to treat their patients."
Top-requested items include basics like surgical and examination gloves, sterile suture and gauze. Haupt said that in hospitals without adequate supplies, he's seen surgeons working without protective gloves, or closing incisions with fishing line. There is also "a tremendous need" for items like diagnostic equipment and imaging equipment, he said.
"The things that we take for granted here in the U.S., they just don't have access to these supplies and equipment and services," Haupt said.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
It's called mixed waste processing, and it's an alternative way some cities have tried to increase recycling rates. (IgnÃ¡cio Costa)
When South Pasadena homeowners recycle, it's as easy as throwing their tuna cans and soda bottles into the trash can along with their food scraps and meat wrappers. It's called mixed waste processing, and it's an alternative way some cities have tried to increase recycling rates.
In 2000, just 6% of South Pasadena's single-family residential waste was being recycled under a voluntary program that had residents sort recycling into a separate container. That percentage shot up to 25% in 2001 after the city decided to let waste and recycling go into one bin bound for a so-called dirty MRF, or mixed-waste materials recovery facility, where sorting equipment and trained workers separate paper, glass, plastic, metal and other commodities on the back end instead of the front.
Why recycling in Los Angeles is so confusing
"We didn't do well with the volunteer system. All the recyclables that went into the trash can were being missed," said South Pasadena public works assistant Diana Harder. "Now the recycling program is automatic. Residents don't have to worry about it."
Nor do they have to pay extra. Single-family households pay $36.49 monthly for the service, about the same as single-family residents in L.A.
The stakes have been high since 1990, when California instituted AB 939, a law that required municipalities to reduce the amount of waste taken to landfills by 25% by 1995 and 50% by 2000 or be fined $10,000 a day. Recycling wasn't mandated, but the law prompted cities to institute source-separation programs similar to the one in effect in L.A., where residents are provided separate bins for green waste, trash and recycling.
"We all started the same way with a two- or three-crate system for newspaper, glass and plastic food and beverage containers. That was it," said Dennis Chiappetta, executive vice president of Athens Services, a waste collection, recycling and disposal company based in the City of Industry that serves 19 cities, including Riverside, West Hollywood and South Pasadena. For all the work that residents did, less than 5% of residential waste was diverted from landfills in 1990, he said.
Now, about 40% of what's put in a mixed-waste bin is recycled, Chiappetta said. With yard clippings separated into a green waste bin, landfill diversion in the cities that Athens services rises to at least 50%, and sometimes almost 80%, he said.
CalRecycle, the state agency responsible for regulating disposal and recycling in California, does not keep track of how many cities process their recyclables as mixed waste. But cities of radically different demographic stripes, from West Covina to Beverly Hills, have adopted the approach.
The latter used to ask its residents to sort recyclables into separate bins, but it switched to mixed-waste processing in 2004. Just 13% of Beverly Hills' waste was recycled in 1995. Now the city has a recycling rate of 35% and an overall landfill diversion rate of 78%.
Still, not everyone agrees that mixed-waste processing is a better system. Critics say higher rates of contamination can decrease the value of the recycled materials. The L.A. Bureau of Sanitation prefers its blue-bin system because contaminated materials such as soiled paper cost more to manage, transport and ultimately deposit in a landfill, a spokesman said.
"It's something we grapple with," said Coby Skye, a civil engineer with the environmental programs division of the L.A. County Department of Public Works, which implements the county's recycling program. "It's a trade-off between contamination and participation. The benefit of having everything go in one bin is you have 100% participation whether people want to recycle or not, or whether they know what goes in the right bin or not."
Monday, April 12, 2010
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