Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s recycling program advances our mission of advancing the health and wellbeing of our community by reducing waste and protecting the environment. While it supports recycling efforts throughout Lancaster County, the health system’s largest impact is in Lancaster City.
“LG Health is very thoughtful about how we dispose of our waste,” said Scott Garrety, director, Environmental Services. “Waste disappears, but our patients and visitors may not know what happens to it.”
LG Health documents its recycling efforts through reports that it shares with the city. In its most recent report, the health system listed a wide range of recycled materials, from cardboard to cooking oil and computer monitors.
“Lancaster City acknowledges us as one of its most important recyclers,” Garrety said. “By working with the city to demonstrate a certain level of recycling participation, the city earns grant money to fund the growth of its recycling program.”
Last year, LG Health recycled 172.47 tons of cardboard and 987,100 pounds of paper at Lancaster General Hospital. One LG Health employee walks up to 11 miles each day emptying hundreds of paper bins at LGH.
“To protect our patients’ privacy, we treat all paper as confidential, and it goes in the Shred-It bins,” Garrety said. “But paper use has decreased due to electronic medical records.”
Garrety explained that LG Health is continually looking at new ways to recycle. LG Health is an early adopter of drug recycling, which keeps unused pharmaceuticals out of landfills and water systems. Sharps, petri dishes and other biohazards are sterilized on-site before being removed from the facility, which reduces costs, the impact of trucks on the road and LG Health’s carbon footprint.
In addition, 3 miles of fluorescent lightbulb tubing are recycled each year – enough to stretch from LGH to the Suburban Pavilion. Furniture is often donated to nonprofit organizations or schools, as well.
Visitors and employees will notice that recycling containers for drink cans are not on inpatient nursing units – and that’s intentional, according to Garrety.
“Sugary residue in cans can attract flies and other pests, so the hospital does not keep these containers on the nursing units,” he said. However, employees and patients can recycle drink containers by sending them back on food trays or discarding them in large bins near the cafeteria and Stager Conference Center at LGH.
Despite the recycling program’s success, there are still space challenges and other opportunities for improvement. Garrety hopes to expand food composting and add rubbery plastic IV bags to the list of recycled materials.
“Eventually we’ll find a way to do it,” he said.