Student Health Center waste audit results show marked improvement

The Student Health Center recently received the results of a University waste audit. Recent recycling rates at the health center are currently 55.4 percent of the total trash produced. Previous waste audits showed recycling rates of 39.4 percent in 2010 and 27.6 percent in 2009. 

The increase in recycling numbers is a direct result of the efforts of the Student Health Center Green Team. Comprised of UHS and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff, the green team has implemented a number of waste reduction strategies at the grass roots level to divert much of the Center’s trash from landfills.

Handwashing is crucial in health care settings and can lead to a large volume of paper towel waste. Wet paper towels are currently composted in all Student Health Center rest rooms, exam rooms, physical therapy, the clinical laboratory and the pharmacy.

Every department within UHS participates in kitchen composting. UHS purchases only compostable beverage cups, plates and utensils.  CAPS also collects composting in their kitchenette area. Volunteers from each department empty smaller compost containers into the large compost bin in the staff lounge.  
To reduce office paper waste, all UHS and CAPS copiers are set to a duplex printing default; many building printers are also set to a duplex printing default. All new fax/copy/printer units within UHS have an electronic log instead of a confirmation sheet. In the health records department alone, this will save 40,000 sheets of paper every year. Documentation from Mount Nittany Medical Center and the advice nurse service are now sent electronically to patient charts instead of printed. The UHS clinical laboratory no longer prints analyzer reports. Clinical services has reduced printed educational handouts by offering patients links to the information online instead.

Each department within UHS has analyzed their packaging waste and set up collection spots for recycling of packaging materials. Large volume packaging waste not handled by the University is sent to outside recycling services when possible. Candy wrappers and chip bags are collected in the staff lounge and transported to the HUB to become part of their recycling program with Terracycle.

The Student Health Center Green Team hopes to reach and exceed the University's goal of 67 percent in the coming year. For additional information about green efforts within Student Affairs, including the Student Health Center, please visit http://www.psu.edu/dept/sa_sustain. University-wide resources to improve sustainability efforts can be found at http://www.green.psu.edu.

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Last Updated October 18, 2011