When it comes to waste management in hospitals, it’s easy to imagine old needles, bags of toxic organic waste, and a broad range of other disturbing materials. However, many hospitals also have other issues when it comes to effective waste management.
Just as with any other large building, complex, or organization, the amount of standard MSW and non-medical waste that is generated is staggering, and without proper waste management systems, there is always the potential for it to end up in landfill.
Today, as the world wakes up to its mounting waste problem, some hospitals are at the forefront of a technological revolution that’s streamlining recycling systems and ensuring reduction across a range of waste streams. Here, we look at how new technology is helping hospitals to reduce waste and what that means for the third decade of the 21st century.
Multiple Locations, One Waste Management Plan
Among the many issues surrounding waste management in hospitals, the “siloed” nature of the buildings themselves present a significant challenge. Hospital campuses can be vast, containing multiple buildings, sometimes spread across entire cities. Additionally, each building may produce a range of waste, and each has varying requirements when it comes to collection and disposal.
Managing these sprawling campuses is complex, in both economic and logistical terms, but consolidating waste management strategies through centralized platforms can help overcome significant admin hurdles.
One point of contact can ensure the efficient collection of a range of waste materials from different locations at different times. This kind of approach has been fueled by the advances in app-based connectivity, meaning that operations managers working from different areas of the city can simply log their requirements and arrange collection and disposal directly from a smartphone or tablet device.
Smart Waste Management
Tracking, measuring, and assessing the variety of products used and the waste created by their use is key to reducing the amount of material that requires management. Advanced recovery solutions and RFID/GPS tracking are seen as key technologies in this sector, providing more accurate data on stock usage, discarded materials, and where waste is disposed in relation to a broad range of hospital consumables.
Tracking waste provides transparency and ultimately allows hospitals to ensure waste is delivered to the correct facilities—boosting recycling levels and improving sustainability goals. However, it also allows hospitals to better manage stock levels and daily needs, reducing waste through better management of consumables.
Today’s technologies are cutting waste off at the source by gathering data on how hospitals use products and materials and how they are dealt with after use. A simple scan of a RFID code is usually all that is required to track stock levels and usage, while GPS tracking of waste allows hospitals to provide full transparency on how waste is deal with.
On-Demand Waste Management for Changing Needs
Like most longstanding industries, waste management is currently experiencing its fair share of digital disruption—and hospitals are proving a fertile testing ground for the latest ideas and initiatives. On-demand waste management allows hospitals to be ultimately flexible, dealing with changing requirements on a daily or even hourly basis.
This is ensuring on-demand services are finally making their way to hospitals that often require collections of non-standard waste. This may include obsolete and broken equipment, non-medical clothing and other materials, or even food waste that may still be edible.
In many cases, this type of waste can be repaired, reused, or donated, it only needs to be directed to the correct facilities. On-demand waste collection is proving particularly useful in these cases, allowing hospitals to be responsive to their waste management requirements.
Combined, these three technological solutions to waste management in hospitals will have a significant impact on the management and removal of waste materials. In the future, as technology becomes ever more present on the administration and operations side of the industry, it is thought that achieving zero waste will become a feasible target.