Auditing Your Hospital Recycling Program

Auditing Your Hospital Recycling Program

Auditing your hospital’s plastics recycling program is a key element of improving your program. Auditing your program can be divided into two parts: (1) auditing the plastic materials that are collected and (2) auditing the plastics collection, segregation, and transfer process. It’s also important to consider auditing both your own facility and your recycler’s.

Let’s take a closer look at what this entails:

Focus on Materials

The purpose of auditing the collected plastics materials is to check that the targeted plastics are being collected. Here is a series of suggested steps for conducting a materials audit:

    1. Select a sample of collected plastic materials and a sample of solid waste from the department or area to be audited.

    2. Establish a sorting/ auditing area.

    3. Sort through collected plastics and identify and quantify conforming and nonconforming items.

    4. Identify and quantify types of contamination (paper, cardboard, unacceptable plastics, infectious waste, etc.)

    5. Sort through the solid waste sample and identify other plastics that could have been recycled.

    6. Interview key staff to identify materials that are confusing to them.

Examining the Process

The purpose of auditing the collection, segregation, and transfer process is to check that the appropriate health and safety precautions are being followed, that cross-contamination is minimized, and that material flow logistics are optimized. Here is a series of suggested steps for conducting a process audit:

    1. Select the department or area to be audited.

    2. Identify key staff involved in collecting, segregating, and transferring the plastics.

    3. Review the plastics collection, segregation, and transfer processes either through direct observation or interviews with staff to observe health and safety precautions and use of labels, colored bags, and other indicators to prevent cross-contamination.

    4. Interview key staff for suggestions on streamlining the materials flow.

    5. Identify deviations from standard waste management processes and look for ways to combine or align the recycling process with standard waste management processes without sacrificing health and safety or contamination concerns.

For both the materials audit and the process audit, provide results to the audited department or area through photos, do’s and don’ts, etc. Incorporate audit findings into training materials, and retrain staff as needed.

As you establish and build your program, develop audit protocols for easier repeat audits. Involve more people in your audit as an opportunity for additional training, and share audit results in a positive manner and as an opportunity for improvement.

Looping in Your Recycling Partner

Your recycler is a key business partner in a successful plastics recycling program. As a best management practice, consider implementing an audit program to review your recycler operations on a regular basis.

Consider the following topics to include in the audit:

    • Evaluation of regulatory compliance.

    • Review of permits, certifications, registrations, etc. and confirmation that they are current.

    • Review of health and safety measures.

    • Review of contingency plan for handling non-conforming wastes.

    • Review of acceptable materials – are there other healthcare plastics that can be accepted?

    • Review of recycling operations – are there any changes in operations that might affect your hospital recycling program?

    • Review of any management system certifications.

Consider establishing a formal review process on a bi-annual or annual basis to discuss what went wrong, what went right, how to improve. The recycler may also have ideas for streamlining and improving your plastics recycling program.

Also consider a quarterly update with your recycler to review material types and quantities received from your hospital, any changes needed for process improvement, and any questions. This would be a good time to collect data for metrics and KPIs.

Toward Continuous Improvement

The information you gather from these audits (both internal and external) will provide valuable data to refine and improve your program, helping to ensure continuing success and expansion moving forward. As you are able to track these improvements, make sure you communicate them out to both your staff and the wider stakeholder group.