The nearly 5,000 acute care hospitals in the United States generate nearly 7,000 tons of waste every day and spend $10 billion annually in disposal costs. Healthcare facilities can generate up to 25 pounds of waste per day per patient; however, that waste represents an environmental footprint much larger than just the cost and impact of disposing of those materials.
For every pound of product manufactured in the United States, 32 pounds of waste are created during the manufacturing process, and transportation adds to the environmental impact of the products hospitals purchase. Hospitals bury and burn garbage composed of plastics, chemicals, paper, food, sharps, packaging, and electronics in an effort to dispose of this waste.
However, due to concern about waste removal fees, mercury, dioxins, and other toxins released from medical waste incinerators, as well as pharmaceutical contaminants in water sources, hospitals are recognizing that waste disposal can have a negative impact on the communities in which they exist. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize waste management and push initiatives to minimize the waste from healthcare facilities.
Reducing waste from meal service ranges from streamlining food purchasing to becoming more efficient with preparation. It is crucial to ensure that food is disposed of without sending the majority of the waste to a landfill.
One option is incorporating an on-site composting facility at the hospital that turns food waste into compost for the community gardens or other organizations.
A big step towards reducing food waste is to move away from large-batch cooking, where half a pan of food typically ends up in the trash. By replacing this mass production method of food with made-to-order meals, it is possible to significantly cut into the hospital’s food waste output. Furthermore, these made-to-order meals are often more popular with patients.