Overlook recognized for environmental sustainability by HealthTrust

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SUMMIT — Atlantic Health System’s Overlook Medical Center has again been recognized for its accomplishments in environmental sustainability with the 2020 Member Recognition Award from HealthTrust, a purchasing and performance improvement organization that serves hospitals, health systems and other health care provider locations.

Overlook received HealthTrust’s award for social stewardship, which is given to organizations that demonstrate excellence in sustainability efforts contributing to a safer and greener hospital, and a better community. Overlook was one of five HealthTrust member organizations that were singled out for supply chain excellence and social stewardship benefiting their providers, patients and communities.

“Now more than ever, it’s important for health care providers to find innovative ways to use the supplies we have,” said Carolyn Brown-Dancy, Atlantic Health System’s director of environmental health and safety. “This award demonstrates our commitment to finding new opportunities to be environmentally sustainable in health care.”

The award highlighted Overlook’s numerous achievements in environmental sustainability, and specifically its initiative in 2019 to repurpose surgical blue wrap, a material that accounts for a huge amount of hospital waste. Blue wrap, used to cover sterile surgical instruments and materials, is made of polypropylene, which is lightweight and durable — and also incredibly nonbiodegradable. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that polypropylene accounts for 19 percent of all operating room waste — 255 million pounds annually throughout the nation.

Overlook Medical Center uses — and discards — approximately 15,000 pounds of blue wrap each year, all of which is disposed of while still sterile. Using prototypes made by one of Overlook’s behavioral health nurses, Tami Ochs, and supported by the hospital’s Green Team, Overlook began turning the blue wrap into reusable tote bags, as well as ponchos and sleeping bags, some of which have been donated to Summit’s homeless.

Overlook has been piloting the bags as a replacement for plastic patient-belongings bags, which is expected to eliminate 100,000 plastic bags and save $30 thousand a year. The hospital is also selling them in the gift shop, as well as providing them as part of a gift package for new mothers in Overlook’s maternity center.

“The blue wrap initiative truly showed how much more usefulness we can find in the materials we use every day in health care,” said Melissa Bonassisa, a medical imaging supervisor who is also a leader of Overlook’s Green Team.

“It’s incredibly fulfilling to have a pastime I enjoy be able to support Overlook’s efforts to improve our environment,” said Ochs, an avid sewing aficionado, who made the first tote bags to demonstrate blue wrap’s reusability and has sewn hundreds more since then.

Overlook is nationally recognized as a leader in environmental sustainability for taking aggressive and innovative approaches to recycling and lowering its impact on the environment. The hospital has received the Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award from Practice Greenhealth, its highest honor, for three consecutive years.