Greening the Operating Room: Results of a Scalable Initiative to Reduce Waste and Recover Supply Costs

Neurosurgery 85:432–437, 2019

Operating rooms generate 42% of a hospital’s revenue and 30% of hospital waste. Supply costs are 56% of a total operating room (OR) budget. US academic medical centers use 2 million pounds ($15 million) of recoverable medical supplies annually. Forming a multidisciplinary leadership team, we analyzed sources of waste focusing on our Department of Neurosurgery. We developed an 8-wk pilot project to recycle “blue wrap,” the number 5 plastic polypropylene material that is ubiquitously used in ORs across the country to wrap instrument pans and implant trays for sterilization. Blue wrap can be baled and sold to recyclers where the material is pelletized and transformed into plastic products.

During the 39 d of the pilot, we collected 1247 pounds of blue wrap (32 lbs collected daily). The cost of the pilot was $14987 that includes a new baler ($11200) and 5 transport carts ($3697). The revenue received from baled blue wrap was 8 cents per pound. Cost avoidance yielded $31680.00 in savings. Implementation of this pilot across our main hospital would yield $5000 in revenue annually and $174.240 in cost avoidance.

This project can be replicated at other centers and not only reduces the environmental footprint, but also helps generate additional revenue by recycling a necessary packing material that would otherwise require payment for disposal.