Recycling Unused Medical Supplies: A New Penn REMEDY

Dear Penn Staff and Faculty:

Each year in the United States $200 million worth of unused medical supplies are disposed of as costly, contaminated garbage. This waste represents much more than an unnecessary burden to our landfills or a financial loss incurred by our hospitals. When viewed in contrast to the severe shortages of medical and surgical supplies in developing nations, this excess illustrates the need for a nation-wide system of material recovery and reuse.

It is with this in mind that I am proud to announce the beginning of REMEDY at Penn. A volunteer organization consisting of students, hospital staff, and medical school administrators, our new program seeks to recover hospital supplies and lab equipment for distribution overseas to undersupplied medical centers.

Working within the Operating Room of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, REMEDY volunteers collect non-grossly contaminated and undamaged items after each surgical procedure. Generally, these items have been readied for use (i.e. taken out of their sterile packaging) but, for whatever reason, were never used. Instead of being discarded along with contaminated garbage, the supplies are sterilized and shipped to hospitals which lack these life saving supplies. We estimate that, if adopted university-wide, REMEDY can recover close to $100,000 worth of such supplies in the first twelve months of operation!

Similarly, REMEDY recycles laboratory equipment. In collaboration with the School of Medicine's Department of Facilities Management and the Department of Environmental Health and Safety, we have already collected over $20,000 worth of "old" equipment! Instead of taking up space in a landfill, the majority of this equipment is now destined for hospitals in countries like Romania, where some of our collected materials are helping to begin a much needed genetics lab.

As Philadelphia's pilot-recovery program, we are looking to demonstrate to other local hospitals how easy implementing such a system can be. To maximize our recovery potential, however, we need your cooperation. Anyone with supplies or equipment to donate can contact me to pick them up. Also, if you know of a particular medical center overseas that could use our materials, please let me know so that I can add them to our "receiving" list.

We have a chance to accomplish something wonderful here, and I appreciate your cooperation. If you have any questions or suggestions to improve our program, please call me at 417-7566. We would love to hear from you.

-- Andrew C. Krakowski, Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Health Program


Volume 43 Number 22
February 18, 1997

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