Hospital Employees Stage Film Cameos To Reduce Waste

Philadelphia - Today's hospital employees are moving into the arena of waste reduction.

U.S. hospitals reportedly generate 6,600 tons of solid waste every day. To address this issue, two producers have collaborated on a video documentary that calls on the nation's hospitals to help in the effort to reduce solid waste.

The producers shot footage at the Waste Management Inc. landfill in Pottstown, Pa., where Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, sends its municipal solid waste. Each month, Ed Barr, Jefferson's manager of support services, took hospital representatives to the landfill.

"Once there," said producer Ann Carol Grossman, "they put on rubber boots, gloves and hardhats, and waded into the tons of trash which had just been deposited by the hospital's truck. They got an unusual understanding of the waste generated by a health care facility, as well as some of the problems of cutting it down." Since the visits, Jefferson has established a recycling program and reduced the amount of trash it sends to the landfill by 50 percent.

The Medical Center Hospital of Vermont, Burlington, Vt., was filmed to illustrate the hospital's closed loop. For example, much of the hospital's food-preparation waste is sent to an experimental farm run by the Intervale Foundation. The waste is composted to support the production of organically-grown produce, some of which is then sold back to the hospital, said producer Ben Achtenberg.

"The cost-reduction part of the message is crucial for administrators," said Achtenberg. But the important message for hospital staff members is that their efforts to reduce waste make a difference, said Achtenberg.

The documentary is scheduled for release early this year and is being produced under the auspices of the Carmenta Foundation for Health Education.