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The Three R’s And The Three G’s

With society regularly reminded of the importance of the three ‘R’s – reduce, recycle and reuse, the fact is that there are more use-and-toss items available today than there were when the goal of the “R’s” was being promoted.

Plastic grocery bags are an excellent example. Opposition to their being recycled stems from claims that it costs less to produce them than to recycle them. One problem with many ‘disposable’ plastic products is that the quality or type of plastic of which they are produced is neither recycleable or biodegradable. If attempts to modify their composition were successful, it would enhance their value. However, while a positive step, such efforts would likely increase their initial cost.

This may account for the giant field of plastics floating in the Pacific Ocean that is twice the size of the United States. Furthermore, experts say that dangerous chemicals from industrial waste stick to plastic in the water. These chemicals are then ingested by marine life and birds – and via the food chain – humans.

Despite the on-going clamor about recycling, many people do not have a clear understanding of what it means. Recycling requires the breakdown and reconstitution of items such as newspapers, glass and plastic bottles. Whereas the materials may be recycled into the same or other products, this is not necessarily true of other recycled waste materials.

However, when a product is designed and intended to be used repeatedly in its original shape  form, the item is being reused.

Thus the meaning of the three R’s - Reduce consumption, Recycle material and Reuse material. As commendable as the efforts of society in general are, what must be remembered is that, in terms of healthcare, many of the materials that are or can be recycled simply can not be reused. In addition, since most of them are contaminated with blood or other infectious materials, they are destined for accumulation as red bag waste. This says nothing about their disposal costs.

What about source reduction in healthcare institutions? An excellent example of the promotion of one of the ways to implement a source reduction program was on display at one of the exhibits at the Association of Registered Perloperative Nurses’ Convention. The Megadyne Com-pany had a sign in their booth that read: US Hospitals Generate 4 Billion Pounds of Waste Each Year. They further maintained that if their OR’s were using their “innovative electrosurgical procedure products” – they could reduce the disposable waste in 5 OR’s from 110 lbs to 13 lbs per month. It could be interpreted that the OR department could G-enerate savings.

The cost of our healthcare delivery system is skyrocketing. An integral part of the process is the viability of long-term economics compared to short-term expenses of singleuse disposables. The reprocessing of the alleged single-use medical devices serve as an excellent example. As confirmed by the government’s General Accounting Office, the cost of reprocessing these devices can be substantial. The safety of their use reached a point that pressure was brought on Congress to intervene. Legislation was enacted mandating the Food and Drug Administration to monitor the hospitals that were reprocessing the devises on premise. Subsequently, legislation classified the hospitals as an Original Equipment Manufacturer and made compliance cost prohibitive.

Nevertheless, those that have either continued processing the devices themselves or depended on the capability of an outside provider are reducing the hosptial’s disposal costs by reducing the G-enerated red bag waste.

Disposable single-use textile products have proliferated our hospitals. The advent of AIDS created a new market for money-hungry entrepreneurs and many less informed health care personnel have fallen prey to them. Do we need disposable isolation gowns to effectively protect against the virus? No. Reusable ‘barrier’ isolation gowns are just as effective. Were there more surgical patients infected when gowns and packs  were made of reusable textiles? Are the hospitals using the reusables compromising the quality of care given to their patients? No, not at all.

Interestingly enough, the large number of hospitals that abandoned the use of reusable textiles in their operating rooms in favor of disposables did so to take advantage of the alleged savings projected for them by the companies marketing their products. However, not one report from a user is found in the literature confirming realized saving.

What all this adds up to is that the use of reusable textiles do not Generate disposable waste. Their use can G-enerate money for the facility, and they can help to G-enerate a ‘green’ clean environment.

Current ecological catastrophes are the result of years of damage we have inflicted on our planet. We can no longer afford the luxury of being a disposable oriented, use and throw away society.

Today’s concerns for the environment are accompanied by a clear and distinct message. We may be surprised to find not only a real economic benefit, but an environmental windfall as well, through the reprocessing and reuse of reusable textiles.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Commercial Laundry Cited by OSHA

ELM GROVE, W. Va. — Uwanta Linen Supply, a commercial laundry, was recently cited for 21 health and safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The laundry faces $62,400 in penalties for the violations. Eighteen of the the 21 violations are considered serious by OSHA. The serious violations include failing to properly guard floor holes and failing to provide hepatitis B vaccines to workers who are potentially exposed to blood borne pathogens.