Space Guidance for Hospitals

Space Guidance for Hospitals

The lack of dock space to stage or process materials is a common problem with developing a hospital recycling program. Unlike the clean, orderly images associated with the lobbies of our hospitals, docks are often cluttered and disorganized with material entering and exiting the facility.

Mapping Materials and Flow

To begin, you must identify the type and quantity of materials you are generating, organize that information, and then consider your current dock space before making any changes. The amount of space you need depends on your program scope, recycler logistics, infrastructure, and materials logistics.

Performing a waste characterization prior to start is recommended. After the waste characterization has been completed, identify the amount of material that you expect to collect (lbs. – plastics, glass, cardboard, aluminum, etc.). Ensure you have an understanding of the amount generated and the frequency of waste pickups. Spend some time mapping the logistics of the waste streams that are expected to be recycled. Consider other operations occurring on and around your dock. These activities may affect the flow and storage location of your recyclables.

Lay out the amount of space that is available for your recycling program. Consider internal space for segregation, processing, storage and transfer. Also consider adjacent exterior areas and the flow of materials between each area. Review the footprint for any additional equipment (compactor, baler, dumpster, etc.) that is needed. Identify what equipment is needed and measure the area to scale to ensure all the equipment will fit. Be sure to consider space for maneuver and storage. Work closely with your recycling partner and internal key stakeholders to ensure the dock layout works for everyone.

Additionally, you’ll need to map your own space and understand how various space configurations could impact material flows. Consider the most economically feasible combination of equipment and pickup scheduling. For example, if your facility is charged by the bin and for each pickup trip, a larger bin with a compactor may be more economical to accommodate larger quantities of recyclables.

Dock Space Guidelines – Key Parameters Flow Chart
Dock Space Guidelines – Configuration Scenarios
Dock Space Guidelines

Extra Support for Small Spaces

One of the biggest challenges hospitals face is avoiding contamination in their waste streams. In order to avoid such contamination, materials need to be properly segregated, but space is often a limiting factor. While sorting and organizing in small spaces can be difficult, using space more efficiently can decrease costs, increase recycling productivity, and simplify the recycling process for hospital staff members.

HPRC surveyed over a dozen hospitals to compile some best practices for successful small-space recycling programs. Some of the suggestions for keeping trash and regulated medical waste streams separated include:

    • Utilize an open-top ramp and automatic doors to ease segregation on the dock.

    • Maintain separate dumpsters: one for municipal solid waste and one for single stream recycling.

    • Utilize the trash chute system to collect everything from centralized locations. Then segregate based on liner color near where compactors are located.

    • Allow for space to maneuver carts through corridors and in and out of storage rooms, soiled utility rooms, and dock spaces.

    • Plan traffic and workflow for the efficiency of the EVS staff.

It can also be beneficial to consider the following space utilization best practices and methods:

    • Work with EVS for recycling large items like metal and furniture, and coordinate with Materials Management for items that can be donated and not disposed.

    • Color-code bags in the soiled utility room to save space. This way, several waste streams can go into one collection container and be transported together to the dock.

    • Use smaller bins to accommodate small spaces; however, note that these containers fill quickly and require more frequent service.

    • Remove air from blue wrap collection bags to maximize the amount of blue wrap that can be stored in a gaylord or container. The waste management fee is priced per pickup, so it is critical to put as much in each load as possible.

    • To save space in the OR, hang bags off of existing trash hampers.

    • Use outdoor-adjacent buildings to segregate waste if dock space is limited.

Best Practices for Small Spaces

Could 5S be the Answer?

5S is a workplace organization method focused around five Japanese concepts that describe how to organize a work space for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area, and sustaining the new order.

Because 5S is a method to organize, clean, sustain a productive and safe work environment, it can help solve space challenges by organizing the space around the intended role, making more productive use of space, and helping workers locate materials quickly. Consider exploring whether this approach might work for your facility. 

5S Program Overview

Making the Most of the Space You Have

Overall, many of these practices center around streamlining the collection process to free up space in other areas of operation. By accomplishing this you can save money, make the workload easier for employees, and utilize your space to its fullest capacity. Redesigning and reconsidering your plastics recycling workflow is an iterative process. Noting what works and what doesn’t is essential to figuring out the right methods for your hospital — you can do this by mapping decisions and their impacts over time, creating diagrams to represent waste flow, and understanding your process as a whole through communication and evaluation of costs and staff feedback.