Turning Trash into Treasure: Kaiser Permanente Project Managers Divert Debris from Dumpsters
January 21, 2009
With its rooftop solar panels, motion-sensing faucets, and native landscaping, Kaiser Permanente’s Modesto (Calif.) Medical Center has earned a reputation as one of the greenest hospitals in health care. Its construction was also among the cleanest.
Furnishing the gleaming, five-story, Central Valley hospital with the comfortable new furniture and modern medical equipment that help make it so spectacular was an enormous job. It also was an enormous producer of shrink wrap, bubble wrap, cardboard, wooden pallets, and various other materials that shield products from manufacturer to maternity ward.
This truckload of packaging foam is on its way to a recycler, rather than a landfill.
Yet the furnishing project sent only a single Dumpster of trash to a landfill. Kaiser Permanente project manager Jeffrey Deane and his crew were able to recycle 97 percent of the shipping materials generated while outfitting the new hospital.
"Just about every piece of equipment and furniture is packaged in some way," said Deane, capital projects director in Kaiser Permanente’s National Facilities Services organization. "We just didn't want to keep sending Dumpster after Dumpster to the landfill."
Finding Homes for Non-Recyclables
His team already was recycling cardboard and paper on a small scale. Team members took it a step further and searched for homes for the stuff typically taken straight to the trash.
Deane found Timbron International, just 20 miles away in Stockton, which turns Styrofoam into crown molding, baseboards, and other architectural trim. Project manager Mike Tsutsui found Sealed Air Corp. in Hayward, which recycles Bubble Wrap and foam.
And Lana Campbell, also a project manager, found Bonzi Recycling, which not only takes non-recyclables — everything but Styrofoam and wood — but pays for certain waste products and hauls them away.
Deane said the fee Kaiser Permanente earned for the materials was nominal but using Bonzi saved him the cost of shipping the waste to collection sites, which can cost as much as $300 a Dumpster.
A Culture of Sustainability
The project took some reeducating and someone had to jump into a Dumpster once or twice a week to sort through the materials, but when the hospital opened in October, the group had prevented nearly 922 cubic yards of waste — or 40 tons — from going into a landfill.
"It was very cool the way everyone got on board," Deane said.
Christine Malcolm, Kaiser Permanente’s senior vice president of hospital strategy and national facilities, called the recycling project a gift to Kaiser Permanente.
"What Jeff has done is incredible and he did it on his own," she said. "He wasn’t told what to do. This is a case of people doing their everyday jobs extraordinarily well."
Malcolm said such grassroots efforts are the heart of Kaiser Permanente’s environmental stewardship plans. "This shows how much an individual with creativity and commitment can contribute to our buildings and our future," she said.
There is a growing culture of sustainability at Kaiser Permanente, and building new medical offices and hospitals with the environment in mind is part of it. These new building sites are often fertile ground for green ideas and new thinking.
Another Success Story — San Leandro Medical Center
In San Leandro, where Kaiser Permanente is building a replacement hospital on the former Albertsons property, construction crews recycled 100 percent of the building materials generated during demolition of two of the grocer's two warehouses.
Senior Project Manager Lee Ann Knight said the city of San Leandro requires contractors to recycle 100 percent of concrete and asphalt, which will be crushed and reused on the future hospital site. But when asked, Rudolph and Sletten, the general contractor for the project, found additional ways to recycle or salvage nearly 3,000 tons of wood, metal, and other building debris.
"I didn’t expect that they would recycle 100 percent of the materials. I was so surprised," Knight said.
Crews prevented more than 11,000 tons of waste from being dumped into a landfill, and Knight said the team is striving to achieve similar results during future demolition projects.
Deane is helping other Kaiser Permanente service areas set up similar recycling programs to the one he created in Modesto, although he noted that the market for recycled materials has dipped in the current economy. He said Kaiser Permanente has established an agreement with Hewlett Packard and some of its other vendors to reduce the amount of shipping materials they include with their products.
"All it takes is just a little extra thought to make a difference," Deane said. "But on projects of this scale, the results are enormous."