Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is a nonprofit academic health system that performs nearly 20,000 surgeries, discharges more than 25,000 patients, and cares for 31,000 emergency visits in their Lebanon, NH emergency department every year. One way that they live out their mission of “advanc[ing] health through research, education, clinical practice and community partnerships, providing each person the best care, in the right place, at the right time, every time,” is through a strong commitment to recycling.
Their approach to recycling healthcare plastics, a unique collaboration between hospitals, industry, and waste haulers, offers a model for hospitals looking to identify their own unique opportunities for plastics recycling. Focused specifically on blue wrap and stretch wrap, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock process offers a proof point that relationships truly are the key to recycling success. Dartmouth-Hitchcock needed an outlet for its blue wrap, but wasn’t generating sufficient quantity to be appealing on its own; Casella (a resource management service provider) was looking to move blue wrap at scale, and saw a valuable commodity; Hypertherm (a local manufacturer of cutting tools) had lofty goals for net zero waste to landfills, but no outlet for some of their materials and insufficient logistical framework to get there on their own.
Together, all are able to make progress, meeting mutual goals, reducing costs, and increasing recycling across the board. By collecting and aggregating their recyclables together in one place, the Area Reclamation Collaborative – ARC™ – operated by Casella at Hypertherm helps organizations such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock pool materials for recyclable materials plus provides the space and logistical support they need to make this system work environmentally and economically. This collaboration between a service provider, hospital, and industry is critical and represents innovative advances in the quest to effectively increase recycling for all participating parties.
Through a series of site visits and stakeholder interviews, HPRC has put together a comprehensive case study of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock recycling program in hopes of inspiring and educating other hospitals who might want to follow in their footsteps. First, we examined the recycling process and systems Dartmouth uses, and then we took a deeper dive with the participants to learn about the realities of how it all came together.
The lesson from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock program is really to bet big on relationships, to think outside the box when looking for partners, and that many options are available to all hospitals. Please consider opportunities to partner with industries in your community to help support your plastics recycling program, and read on for more great information and case studies to help support your program, whatever stage it is in.