Waste and recycling among orthopedic subspecialties Academic Article uri icon

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  • Background: It is estimated that one-quarter to half of all hospital waste is produced in the operating room. Recycling of surgical waste in the perioperative setting is uncommon, even though there are many recyclable materials. The objective of this study was to determine the amount of waste produced in the preoperative and operative periods for several orthopedic subspecialties and to assess how much of this waste was recycled. Methods: Surgical cases at 1 adult and 1 pediatric tertiary care hospital in Calgary, Alberta, were prospectively chosen from 6 orthopedic subspecialties over a 1-month period. Waste was collected, weighed and divided into recyclable and nonrecyclable categories in the preoperative period and into recyclable, nonrecyclable, linen and biological categories in the intraoperative period. Waste bags were weighed using a portable hand-held scale. The primary outcome was the amount of recyclable waste produced per case. Secondary outcomes included the amount of nonrecyclable, biological and total waste produced. An analysis of variance was performed to test for statistically significant differences among subspecialties. Results: This study included 55 procedures. A total of 341.0 kg of waste was collected, with a mean mass of 6.2 kg per case. Arthroplasty produced a greater amount of recyclable waste per case in the preoperative (2017.1 g) and intraoperative (938.6 g) periods as well as total recyclable waste per case, resulting in a greater ratio of waste recycling per case then nearly all other subspecialties in the preoperative (86%) and intraoperative (14%) periods. Arthroplasty similarly produced a greater amount of nonrecyclable waste per case (5823.6 g) than the other subspecialties, most of which was produced during the intraoperative period (5512.9 g). Overall an average of 27% of waste was recycled per case. Conclusion: Among orthopedic subspecialties, arthroplasty is one of the largest waste producers and it has the highest potential for recycling of materials. Effective recycling programs in the operating room can reduce our ecological footprint by diverting waste from landfills, as our study revealed that nearly three-quarters of this waste is recyclable.


  • Kooner, Sahil
  • Hewison, Christopher
  • Sridharan, Sarup
  • Lui, Justin
  • Matthewson, Graeme
  • Johal, Herman
  • Clark, Marcia

publication date

  • June 2020