Case Study

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Barrier Mapping Study

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is striving to become a zero-waste campus by 2025 (i.e., 90% diversion of non-hazardous waste away from landfills) through an economically sustainable waste diversion program. To make progress towards this ambitious goal within a three-year deadline, the institution must rapidly ramp up its waste diversion and waste prevention practices. The institution has identified three key barriers it must overcome to achieve its zero-waste goal: inadequate staffing and training resources; lack of real-time waste data; and space limitations.


One of the nation’s leading academic health centers, the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, is committed to being a responsible steward of natural resources through efficient operations, innovative research and ideas, and upholding the oath to “first, do no harm.”

The medical center seeks to meet its ambitious goal of becoming a zero-waste campus by 2025 by diverting 90% of non-hazardous waste from landfills. This involves reducing waste generation upstream and then managing it responsibly through landfill diversion, recycling, composting, and sorting of waste streams.

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Barrier Mapping Case Study

Conclusion and Findings

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center has made significant investments in, and progress toward, becoming a zero-waste campus and diverting healthcare plastics from landfill. The institution recognizes that despite recent successes, it will need to continually focus on new approaches to waste management and it anticipates ongoing engagement and training around waste diversion due to continual changes in staffing and waste management practices.

By undertaking the healthcare plastics recycling pilot program, the institution is establishing a baseline waste diversion rate in support of its zero-waste goal. The pilot program needs to expand practices across all facilities to accurately determine baseline data. The institution plans to develop and implement standard operating procedures to hold staff accountable to waste diversion practices.

Because, like most hospitals, the medical center was not designed with waste diversion as a priority, it must continue to find creative solutions to limited space for waste sorting and collection in the hospital and loading docks. The institution plans to design future spaces with waste management in mind by determining a longer-term solution for where to collect healthcare plastics while balancing competition for unrenovated spaces.

Based on current solutions and approaches, the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center anticipates positive outcomes including:

    • driving consistency in recycling practices and decreasing contamination levels in recycling collections through continued focus on training nursing and custodial staff on waste diversion;
    • making significant progress on its zero-waste goals while simultaneously decreasing costs associated with waste disposal by more efficiently managing the collection and pickup of recyclable materials;
    • scaling its healthcare plastics recycling collection to additional locations using key learnings from the pilot program;
    • continuing to implement new approaches and solutions to increase waste diversion across the campus aligned with the university’s strategic plan and leadership support; and
    • empowering staff to make a direct social and environmental impact through their jobs.

Key Success Metrics

    • As of FY 2022, the institution has diverted 37.4% of non-hazardous waste from landfill.
    • Through the advanced recycling pilot project, approximately 550 pounds of healthcare plastics are collected weekly from the two ambulatory locations.
    • As of FY 2022, the institution has diverted 5 tons of blue sterilization wrap from landfill.
    • From August 2021 to January 2023, the institution diverted 23,558 pounds of healthcare plastics to Freepoint Eco-Systems for recycling.