Healthcare Without Healthharm Workshop
INITIATIVE NAME Healthcare Without Healthharm Workshop
UNIVERSITY University Of California San Francisco
TAGS sustainablility
CONTACT Living Green Ucsf <>


Following an international planning meeting for the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network (GGHH), a project of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), an international group of health care sustainability and waste management experts visited UCSF Medical Center. The workshop provided the visitors an overview of how waste is managed at the hospital and highlighted other sustainability initiatives.

This post-conference workshop identified connections between the environmental impacts of healthcare and its effects on human health. Those who joined us to learned what healthcare and healthcare professionals can do to make a difference. 


Some of the best practices highlighted on the tour included:

Composting and Recycling:  UCSF diverts 45% of its waste through its recycling and composting programs, such as patient room recycling, composting of paper towels in bathrooms, and composting 90 percent of all patient and retail food waste.

On-Site Sterilization: The tour visited UCSF’s decentralized on-site sterilization system for medical waste.  UCSF’s automated autoclaves sterilize lab and infectious waste so it can be disposed of at the landfill, rather than be sent to a hazardous waste disposal facility.

Reusable Sharps Containers:  UCSF has contracted with Stericycle®, a medical waste and sharps disposal company, to collect, disinfect and reuse plastic containers for “sharps”—hypodermic needles and other sharp tools such as scalpels—as well as certain glass vials. This change diverts more than 100,000 pounds of plastic waste from landfills and saves about $250,000 a year.

Switching from Disposable Patient Pillows: The medical center has switched from disposable patient pillows to vinyl-covered reusable ones that are cleaned and disinfected after each patient is discharged from the hospital. Each pillow is expected to last about six months rather than be thrown out after each patient’s hospital stay. In the past, the medical center purchased about 160,000 disposable pillows a year, resulting in 296,000 pounds of waste.