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The amount of resources on the planet is finite. Therefore, they must be used wisely by reducing the amount of materials used, making responsible purchases and reusing and recycling whenever possible. Yale-New Haven Hospital has taken an active stance in reducing waste and promoting recycling throughout its campus.

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YNHH recognized for commitment to growing greener

Two leading healthcare organizations recently recognized Yale-New Haven Hospital for implementing programs and policies designed to improve the environment. VHA Inc. awarded YNHH the 2012 VHA Leadership Award for Sustainability Excellence and Practice Greenhealth bestowed its 2012 Making Medicine Mercury-Free Award on the hospital

YNHH was one of only eight health organizations in the United States to be recognized by VHA with this award this year. Healthcare organizations were selected for their work in implementing industry leading environmental sustainability programs and for creating programs that reduce environmental impact on the community.

VHA, a national network of not-for-profit healthcare organizations, recognized Yale-New Haven's WorkSMART initiative and all the programs it supports that promote sustainability, cost savings and efficiency throughout the hospital. Practice Greenhealth, a national membership organization for healthcare facilities committed to environmentally responsible operations, honored YNHH with its 2012 Making Medicine Mercury-Free Award for virtually eliminating mercury from patient care operations and committing to continue to be mercury-free.

Kitchen biodigester

What is 67 inches long, 52 inches high, shiny stainless steel and can gobble up more than 50 pounds of discarded food every 30 minutes?

The newest addition to the hospital's Food and Nutrition Services department: the biodigester in the East Pavilion food services kitchen. This eco-friendly food disposal system quickly and safely decomposes virtually all organic food waste including meats, fruits and vegetables, breads and dairy products.

When a formula of microorganisms is added to it, the biodigester breaks down the waste into a liquid which is then safely disposed down the drain, and ultimately returned to the ecosystem as water. The new machine "digests" an average of 900 pounds of food a day, produces no odor and does not consume a lot of electricity.

The operator adds food waste to the chamber through a large hatch. The machine adds water and the food, with the help of the microorganisms, begins breaking down immediately. The waste is flushed down the drain and off to water treatment facilities before it enters the ecosystem.

Prior to the biodigester, staff discarded leftover, uneaten or unused food into large garbage bins, which were wheeled outdoors, compacted in dumpsters and hauled away by a waste removal company. The hospital expects to save about $11,000 in waste removal fees annually with the biodigester. In addition to returning water to the ecosystem, the environmentally friendly biodigester diverts landfill waste and cuts down on air pollution and truck traffic..

Recycling machines

Since WorkSMART debuted in January 2009, employees have overwhelmingly suggested that the hospital provide the ability to recycle bottles and cans. The employee Recycling Committee, whose members work to improve recycling efforts throughout the hospital, were impressed with staff support and set about developing a plan.

recycleAs a result of employees' ideas and the committee's work, three "reverse" vending machines — they take in cans and bottles rather than dispense them — have been installed. The machines — with a specially designed WorkSMART wrap — function like the ones used by large supermarkets, and are located at the entrance to the East Pavilion cafeteria — for people eating in or passing through the Atrium.

The machines are programmed to take most of the plastic bottles and aluminum cans of beverages sold in the hospital and will even accept the small Shasta soda cans that units stock. They also accept others that staff and visitors bring from home.

They provide a clean, convenient way to dispose of this waste in a responsible manner that benefits both environment and  employees. Periodically, the machines will print a coupon that the recycler can redeem in any YNHH cafeteria for a free soda or coffee.

Paperless pay stubs

paperlessEmployees are increasingly accessing their pay information through a new feature called "Online Pay Stub," an idea that employees submitted to WorkSMART in an effort to decrease the cost of printed material.

Employees who have direct deposit can elect to discontinue receiving a paper copy of their pay stub by selecting that option on the hospital intranet,  All data that is currently on their pay stub is available online. Previous pay stubs are available for viewing. YNHH offers direct deposit to all employees. 

Single-source recycling

Since WorkSMART was introduced in March 2009, employees have contributed more than 1,000 ideas — many of them concerning recycling. 

Phase II of the single-source recycling project began in September 2010 as Environmental Services associates started to deliver receptacles to patient care areas throughout the hospital. Single-source recycling allows all recyclables to be put in one place for separation later. Environmental Services staff regularly remove the contents of the receptacles, which are then recycled by the hospital's refuse vendor, All-American Waste, which has invested in an automated separation system at its plant in Berlin, Conn.

Waste management: The role of every employee

To meet federal guidelines designed to keep the environment safe, Yale-New Haven Hospital must adhere to specific requirements for the disposal of red bag, pharmaceutical and confidential waste. These must be transported differently and stored separately from regular garbage. They are also more expensive to dispose of than everyday trash. Find out more.

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