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Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP)

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Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital
Pueblo at Bath Street
Santa Barbara, CA  93103

Hospitals have a noble mission to care for the sick, treat the injured, and bring babies into the world. But the healthcare facilities also have a long history as top garbage producers, generating vast amounts of paper, plastic, food, and toxic waste that end up clogging landfills. Over the past decade, the industry has made great strides in reversing its unhealthy impact on the environment. In 1998, the American Hospital Association set goals to reduce hospital waste by 50 percent by 2010. Cottage Health System has achieved that goal in just eight years, through the efforts of environmentally-conscious employees who have made it their passion to create “a greener Cottage.” The goal of a greener Cottage is to improve health services and administrative practices in an ecologically sustainable manner, without lowering patient safety or care standards. One of the biggest impacts on the environment is trash going into landfills. All across the nation, landfills are reaching their capacity. In the Santa Barbara area, the Tajiguas Landfill is expected to reach maximum capacity by 2020 and will be closed. Eight years ago, the City of Santa Barbara realized that it needed to change its waste disposal habits quickly, because city residents were sending 70 percent of all garbage to the landfill. Only 30 percent of waste was being recycled. The city set a goal to reverse those numbers: the aim was to reduce landfill waste to 30 percent and to increase recycling to 70 percent. Cottage has this ambitious goal within its reach. After working for years to pump up recycling, Cottage significantly reduced its solid waste and in 2009, only 35 percent of its waste was sent to the landfill. Recycling at Cottage increased ten-fold over the last decade—from 82,000 pounds recycled in 2000 to nearly 1 million pounds in 2009. Ruben Cosio, director of hospitality services and chair of the Environmental Sustainability Committee at Cottage, explains the major steps that led to the recycling turnaround. “In 2006, Environmental Services came under the wing of Hospitality Services,” he said. “With these two departments working together, it allowed us to have the additional resources we needed to get the results we wanted for our recycling goals.” The biggest impact in keeping waste out of the landfills came from recycling all of the cardboard boxes and packaging that piled up at the hospital daily from shipments of supplies, food, and other items. By working closely with vendors and suppliers, Cottage has been able to reduce waste. “We’ve been building relationships with vendors that share a common interest in the environment,” Ruben says. “We chose companies that understood that recycling was important to us.” In 2008, Cottage took another big step to reduce landfill waste by participating in the city of Santa Barbara’s pilot composting program. “Cottage was the first participant in the city’s program, and because of the very stringent regulations the hospital must follow, we knew that if the program could work at Cottage, then it could be successful anywhere,” said Stephen MacIntosh, who spearheaded the launch of the composting program for the city. Cottage now composts about 7,500 pounds of food waste per month, with nearly 90,000 pounds composted last year. This is the equivalent of 24 vehicles being taken off the road, according to the city’s environmental analysts. “It’s been a great success,” Stephen added. “Not only does this reduce the amount of garbage in the landfill, it also reduces significantly the amount of methane (greenhouse gases) going into the air. Kudos goes to Ruben and his team.” Despite the achievements, there’s still more work that could be done, says Jo Vargas, manager of environmental services and co-chair of the Environmental Sustainability Committee. “I’m proud of the achievements we’ve made over the last five years,” she says “But we’ve only scratched the surface of what we can accomplish.” Here’s a sampling of what Cottage is doing to reduce, reuse and recycle: recycled more than 1.7 million pounds of cardboard boxes and packaging last year; placed recycling centers at all elevator landings at hospitals; reprocessed (sterilize and reuse) certain products, such as sharps containers, catheters, forceps, scalpels, scissors, graspers, and tourniquet cuffs; launching a recycling and composting center in the cafeterias at Santa Barbara Cottage and Goleta Valley Cottage; replacing Styrofoam serve ware and to-go containers with an eco-friendly line that is 100 percent plant-based and can be placed in composting or recycling; buying local, organic produce; posting menus on the hospital’s intranet instead of printing weekly menus; offering filtered water in cafeterias as an alternative to bottled water; use of online surveys in human resources department to reduce paper waste; recycling obsolete computer monitors and other electronic items; eliminated products containing mercury from hospital storerooms; converted office supply ordering from paper requisitions to online order forms; seeking environmentally friendly products with minimal packaging; use of environmentally friendly cleaning supplies; and hosting a weekly farmers’ market at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital cafeteria.
Years Awarded: 2011, 2010

1 Location Statewide

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital
Pueblo at Bath Street
Santa Barbara, CA  93103

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Last updated: December 13, 2011
Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP) http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/WRAP/
Contact: LAMD@calrecycle.ca.gov