Going green with medical waste

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The busier a hospital is, the faster needle disposal containers fill up. At Nacogdoches Medical Center, staff is told if you see a "sharps container" full, switch it out.

"We all have a key, even the nurses have a key, that we go in and we unlock it and change it out," explained Lattrice Merchant, an environmental services tech at Medical Center.

The sharp items are safely secured, but there is always a risk of possible "needle sticks".

"You never know what kind of diseases or things patients have. Want to make sure that you don't infect yourself or others," said Morgan Nix, a registered nurse that disposes of sharp items in the container numerous times a day.

The risk and responsibility is about to end at Medical Center.

The sound of power drills is heard coming from each room. The hospital is joining about half the hospitals across the country that have installed recyclable sharps disposal containers.

"We average almost an install a day at some hospital in the United States. This particular program we have running a little over 2000 across the country," said Jerry Michaud, a sales executive for the company, Stericycle.

Nacogdoches Medical Center is entering the program this year. Lufkin Memorial and Livingston Memorial have been on it for a while.

It's advantage over the old containers, "first and foremost is safety," said Michaud.

Company technicians will change out the receptacles. They're transported to a central facility where robots empty the containers, reducing the spread of germs even more so. The sharps are then taken to a bio hazardous disposal facility.

The second significant advantage is the new plastic containers, unlike the old ones, aren't thrown away. They're sanitized and reused up to 600 times.

"It's going to reduce over a million pounds of plastics per year from going to the landfill," said Michaud. It's estimated Nacogdoches Medical Center will keep over 21,000 pounds of plastics out of landfills. Carbon dioxide emissions will but cut by more than 12,000 pounds. The hospital will also receive carbon points for participating in the carbon footprint program.

This green movement supports a cleaner environment, which is likely to keep a lot of people from going to the hospital in the first place.

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