Waste Reduction

Cleveland Clinic is committed to reducing waste across our healthcare system. By engaging our caregivers to minimize the waste we send to our landfills, we are protecting the environment, reducing costs and improving land, air and water quality in our communities. We have made significant progress in a number of areas that advanced our system in responsible waste management.

Landfill Diversion

Enterprise landfill Diversion By Quarter

In 2016, we continued to track over 30 different waste streams. In the fourth quarter of 2015 we began to see an increase in enterprise volume after the acquisition of Akron General Health System. We expect our enterprise waste and recycling to remain between 7500 and 8000 tons per month.

Main Campus Landfill Diversion Improvement

In 2016, our enterprise landfill diversion rate including construction and debris (C&D) was 51%, excluding C&D it was 31%. The 20% difference was largely due to significant volume from the demolition of one large parking garage. Main campus led the enterprise by maintaining over a 45% landfill diversion rate for half of 2016. The facility has made significant improvements since the Office for a Healthy Environment was established in 2007.

Zero Waste Committee

Zero Waste Committee

The Office for a Healthy Environment formed an inter-departmental zero waste committee with the goal of reaching a 50% landfill diversion rate or more by the end of 2017. Our enterprise recycling rate fluctuates between 30 to 40%, and to combat stagnation in improvement we conducted waste audits at several of our hospitals to identify potential opportunities. Even in the frigid air of Ohio in January, passionate caregivers audited the trash of Hillcrest Hospital and were able to identify nearly 800 pounds that could be diverted from the landfill.

Purple Bag Expansion

Diverted Clinical Plastics (Tons)

In 2015, we completed a system-wide expansion of our clinical plastics recycling program that was created by Cleveland Clinic in partnership with Buckeye Industries and our waste vendor. In 2016, we diverted 124 tons of materials via this innovative partnership, as well as created more than 50 jobs for community members with developmental disabilities. Participating facilities competed on a monthly basis to see which team of caregivers could divert the most clinical plastics from the landfill. Due to new State guidelines and material economics, Buckeye Industries is closing down three facilities in 2017 and no longer able to accept our materials. We are working diligently with our waste and supply chain vendors to create a new solution for this recycling stream.

See our 2014 UNGC Report for a detailed program summary.

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Single Stream Paper Shredding & Recycling

We offer a single stream paper shredding/recycling program to our facilities to further protect the personal information of our patients and to simplify the collection process for our employees. All paper, regardless of the sensitivity of the document is collected in our secured shredding containers. When this program became operational in 2010 we observed an increase on the order of 44% in the amount of paper captured in our secure shredding bins. Not only does this program improve our HIPAA compliance as we shred all paper, simplify the collection process for our employees, but it also reduces cost as we have leveraged the value of our paper waste commodity to negotiate lower service rates. This program is now among our lowest cost methods of recycling or disposal.

In 2016, we recycled over 4,500 tons of paper, which has preserved nearly 77,000 trees.Environment

Single Use Device Reprocessing

In the past, when clinical instruments were unused but removed from their packaging pre-surgery in our ORs, these items were incinerated or treated as regulated medical waste. In 2011, we adopted a single-use device program where these devices are recycled and remade through an in-depth and strictly regulated process. The reprocessed items are then sold at a lower cost to healthcare providers. The reprocessed equipment is subject to greater regulations than when it was originally created, ensuring the safety of patients and caregivers.

In November 2014, Cleveland Clinic began the conversion process between vendors for our Suture and EndoMechanical staplers. At our main campus we historically purchase around 875 powered staplers annually, but the transition provides the sustainability opportunity to reuse the handle up to 50 times. This will cut down our waste of these large handles from 876 units to almost 18 units, a reduction of nearly 98%.

Managing Hazardous and Regulated Wastes

Hazardous materials such as sterilization and water treatment chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cleaning products, electronic wastes, laboratory chemicals, and radiological films and wastes are an important part of the healthcare delivery model. Proper management of these materials is critical to protecting the health of our caregivers and the community at large.

Measuring the amount of regulated medical waste that is processed through our two main campus Rotoclaves was challenging until 2016. We had relied on an estimate of average cart weights and the number of loads processed through the system by our EVS team, but we still weren’t confident these numbers were accurate. As part of our enterprise zero-waste and greening the OR goals, we wanted to be able to quantify the precise amount of RMW being processed through these machines and trace the waste back to its source in order to identify reduction opportunities.

To accomplish these goals, we purchased a large floor-scale, and with the help of EVS developed a cart-tagging process to track where each cart was coming from. Carts are now marked with a sign indicating whether they are from our ORs, Patient Floors, or Labs. After the full cart is transported by a robot through our underground tunnel system to the dock, an EVS employee then weighs each cart, and enters the weight and tag location into a form on an iPad. This form automatically populates a monthly spreadsheet which we then utilize in our enterprise recycling data. We experience a 99% cart weight accuracy and are now able to understand where our RMW is coming from. This has helped establish accurate metrics to track RMW reductions from the efforts our physician champion, Matt Davis, is implementing in our ORs.

Going Green by Using Blue

Dr. Hart Recycling at Hillcrest

Our green team recycling sustainability motto is “Go green by using blue.” In 2016, our enterprise comingled “blue-bag” recycling program diverted 2,805 tons of cans, bottles, glass, cardboard, and poster board from the landfill. The Office for a Healthy Environment works with green teams and the Environmental Health & Safety department across the enterprise to right size our recycling containers and adjust service frequencies to meet our needs.

Know Where to Throw

Know Where to Throw

If Not Then Who?


In 2016, Cleveland Clinic recycled over 7,850 tons of materials from all of its recycling streams across the enterprise.