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Green Practice

Sterile Surgical Systems is committed to protecting our environment by internally conserving resources and cutting the pollution associated with all steps in our laundry and sterile textile processing. We are also committed to helping our healthcare customers reduce their environmental footprint by giving them “Greener” options for their laundry service and surgical services.

Internal Environmental Stewardship

In our plant we are on track to, every year: save 7.2 million gallons of water, recycle 25,000 pounds of plastic, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 400,000 pounds, and stop 660 gallons of sodium hydroxide from entering the wastewater treatment plant.

Sterile Surgical Systems (SSS) is a family owned and operated healthcare laundry/surgical textile sterilizer, specializing in medical linens and hospital operating room reusable sterile textiles. There are approximately 30 diverse employees, many having one or two family members also employed here. SSS is a growing company, full of potential, with the desire to be the best in the industry. We pride ourselves on our commitment to quality, trust, adaptability and environmental sustainability. Those characteristics only describe SSS if we consider our impact in each decision we make. Our goal is to be the most knowledgeable and well respected authority on medical linen and reusable textile sterilization in the nation.

In December of 2009, SSS implemented a full water recycling system that has been guaranteed by the vendor to reduce water and sewer usage by 70 percent. Recycling conserves fresh water for drinking and other potable uses. It benefits the ecosystem, including plants, fish and wildlife, because less fresh water is removed from streams, rivers and other bodies of water. It reduces the cost to transport water from remote locations and helps maintain water supplies in our underground aquifers. It reduces and prevents pollution by decreasing the wastewater discharged to the environment. Sustainability of wetlands and related ecosystems can be greatly enhanced through the practice of recycling and reusing wastewater. The industry average is 2.25 gallons of water used per pound of dry laundry processed. As of March 9, 2010 SSS is averaging 0.8 gallons/pound. While reusing and recycling wastewater, the water used retains much of its heat, requiring less energy to reach the steam stage necessary for many of our machines. This means we reduce the amount of natural gas we consume and pollution caused by the burning thereof. So far, through the use of SSS’s water recycling system, we are on pace to reduce our water usage by 7.2 million gallons per year, to reduce our plant’s carbon dioxide emissions by 400,000 pounds per year, and to prevent over 660 gallons of sodium hydroxide (alkali) per year from entering the wastewater treatment plant.

In January of 2010, SSS implemented a plastic recycling program. Instead of paying for the plastic bags to go to the landfill, our plastic waste is removed for free and something positive is created with the recycled waste. We partnered with Valley Medical Center, one of our major clients, and created a program that is run by their soiled linen bag vendor; the soiled linen bags and poly cart covers are baled, collected, and extruded into new material used in the construction of synthetic home decks. We are now on track to recycle over 25,000 pounds of plastic per year.

In March 2010 we implemented a gravity-fed rainwater recovery system. In the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater, Washington area, this is one of the simplest solutions to reducing use of municipal water and saving pure rainwater from entering the sewage system. 25,000 gallons per year is the projected additional water savings due to rainwater collection from our roof. The average rainfall here is estimated at 52 inches annually. We already own the holding tank. We are simply repurposing it for an environmentally healthy useage.

Reusable Surgical Textiles for Hospitals/Surgery Centers.

The trend in hospitals, these days, is to continue using disposable gowns and towels in the operating rooms. The amount of needless waste produced by this practice is astounding. Our landfills are too full as it is; the more you pack in a limited space, the longer it takes for items to decompose. Additionally, many of these disposable products are made in other countries that may not have the desire to cut waste, preserve natural resources, or treat their workers humanely.

Reusable textile sterilization businesses, like ours, provide better quality products while both creating jobs in Washington State and promoting environmental sustainability. If we could turn the tide on the war of reusable vs. disposable textiles in hospitals, it unlocks many opportunities for jobs in Washington. The cost per use is comparable already, but client increase can help costs decrease. A notable nod in our direction could change the future course of events in Washington. Imagine the effect if all hospitals switched to reusable items, where available.

At SSS, we believe that our future is an emerald future. We choose to reduce our environmental footprint so our great-grandchildren’s great-grandchildren can see our proud reputation still intact, not our waste build-up and irreparable environmental damage. We understand that everyone is in this together. We hope our environmental stewardship can help change some minds and influence more businesses to do the same.

Reusables vs. Disposables

• Reusables cost less than half the price of disposables per use
• Reusables are better for the environment
• Reusables will help hospitals meet EPA waste reduction standards
• Reusables offer superior quality - doctors, nurses, and patients prefer them
• Reusables provide better barrier protection in surgery
• Reusables require less storage space – order daily only what you need
• Reusables reduce liability for hospitals