June 11th, 2009

In 2008, Great River Medical Center recycled enough waste to top the weight of a fully loaded 400-passenger Boeing 747 jet. The Nutrition Services Department alone collected tin cans equivalent to the poundage of an average-size car. For these efforts, the hospital received a Partner for Change award in May from Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s only membership association devoted to environmentally responsible healthcare. It was the only Iowa hospital honored in the organization’s 2009 Environmental Excellence Awards.

The Partner for Change award recognizes health-care facilities that continuously improve and expand on their mercury elimination, waste reduction and pollution-prevention programs. Great River Medical Center received a Partner for Change Award in 2008, and Practice Greenhealth's Make Medicine Mercury-free Award in 2007. Also this year, it received its second Sustainability Award from the Des Moines County Regional Waste Commission for excellence in waste reduction.

In 2008, the hospital recycled nearly 360,000 pounds of waste, 27 percent of the total waste produced. Items included batteries, cardboard, cooking oil, light bulbs, magazines, monitors, motor oil, newspapers, paper, plastic, tin cans, wood pallets and X-ray film.

“Our recycling numbers were up quite a bit this year,” said John Reusch, manager, Environmental Services. “The greatest improvement was a lot of employees stepping forward and saving recyclable items in their areas.”

Besides preventing 180 tons of garbage from entering the landfill, the hospital saved $8,600 in waste-management fees. It received nearly $3,500 in the sale of recyclable materials.