The Case for Recycling Surgical Supplies

Cheryl Clark
October 30,2014
Health Leaders Media
A large hospital can rack up $15 million in wasted surgical supplies annually, researchers find. At least some of these materials could be recycled for use in developing countries, they say.
It's not that surprising that millions of dollars in surgical supplies are opened in operating rooms but go unused every year in the average teaching hospital.
What is surprising is the amount of that waste—about $15.4 million a year in any large hospital—and that at least some of these supplies could be used in developing countries where they are in short supply or unavailable.
These are the findings of a team of Johns Hopkins and other surgeons who calculated the value of materials they retrieved from their hospital's waste containers sent to Ecuador over a three-year period. Their paper on their project is published Oct. 16 in the World Journal of Surgery.
In most U.S. hospitals, "surgeons open big packs of supplies on the back table of an operating room, pre-packaged for the average surgical case, but for whatever reason, there's usually a lot of stuff that you don't use," says Richard Redett, MD, a pediatric craniofacial surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, MD.