Food waste can be a big headache for hospitals, given the sheer volume of meals that are produced. Sometimes, dishes are not completely finished and these leftovers quickly add up due to the number of patients, visitors, doctors and various staff who eat at the site. Hospital food service is likely aware of the tons of organic waste that wind up in landfills. One New Jersey hospital, the Hackensack University Medical Center, has found an environmentally-friendlier way to rid of this waste.
Turning food waste into water
According to an article published on NJ.com, Hackensack UMC found a sustainable method of disposing their food waste through BioHitech, a manufacturer of high-volume organic waste decomposition systems called digesters. These units use a blend of micro-organisms and wood chips to “digest” the food waste that is placed into the device, eventually turning the leftovers into a liquid that can be pumped out of the site through sewage pipes. This water is then processed again by wastewater treatment plants, as any other sewage water would be.
Furthering recycling procedures
The hospital also invested in recyclable plates and cups. This allowed staff to set up a recycling station, which boasted separate compartments for recyclables and organic waste. The article cited a statement made by the Hackensack UMC’s sustainability coordinator for the Dierdre Imus Environmental Health Center, Kyle Tafuri.
“When we first started with that recycling station, our recycling rate was around 14 percent,” he said. “Now our recycling rate is around 30 percent,” said Tafuri.
Hackensack UMC was recognized by Practice Greenhealth, a national health care membership community that promotes its members to practice greener procedures and more sustainable techniques. The institution received Practice Greenhealth’s 2013 “Partner for Change” award.
Implementing sustainable policies
For hospitals looking to go green, small steps can produce big changes. Draw inspiration from Hackensack UMC’s recycling station and consider switching to recyclable plates and cups if your institution doesn’t already use them. Set up a few recycling stations with instructions and possibly examples in the cafeteria. Also, think about having one or two simplified models for hospital food service workers who pick up finished meals from patient’s rooms.
Promoting sustainable practices will show your institution’s commitment to the the environment. Patients and visitors who believe in green practices will take note of your hospital’s efforts and appreciate your new procedures.