The VA Maryland Health Care System has been recognized with two awards for environmental excellence. Maryland Recycling Network has awarded the Baltimore VA Medical Center, a division of the VA Maryland Health Care System, with the 2017 Outstanding Small Government Program Award for its efforts to promote waste reduction and promote recycling. Also, Practice Greenhealth has recognized the VA Maryland Health Care System with a Partner for Change Award for improving and expanding programs to eliminate mercury and reduce and recycle waste. The award was announced in May at the Practice Greenhealth Environmental Excellence Awards Gala in Minneapolis, MN.
"We're thrilled that our efforts to become more green and more active in our environmental stewardship as a health care system are beig recognized," said Dr. Adam M. Robinson, Jr., director of the VA Maryland Health Care System. "This is possible only because of our dedicated employees working in our Green Environmental Management System (GEMS) team who are leading the way."
The Maryland Recycling Network's Outstanding Small Government Program Award recognized the Baltimore VA Medical Center for its increased recycling rate from 17 percent of the total waste stream to more than 36 percent, and continuing to increase. The GEMS team opened a Greene Room on Greene Street at the Baltimore VA Medial Center, now the recycling heart of the facility where waste is sorted by commodity. Despite the challenges of limited space, older equipment, and other obstacles, the GEMS team developed a scope of work and goals for waste reduction. The Greene Room on Greene Street now features a designated area for cardboard bales, pallets, metals and other single stream recyclables collected throughout the facility, as well as every day recyclables, including odd items such as furniture and mattresses.
"Our Greene Room is, in fact, very GREENE!" said Jesse Ballard, III, deputy chief of the Environmental Management Services at the VA Maryland Health Care System. "We can accept various materials in this room, which in the past held only a solid waste compactor," he added. Ballard, who, along with some GEMS staffers, accepted the award for the health care system.Practice Greenhealth, one of the nation's leading organizations dedicated to environmental sustainability in health care, gave the VA Maryland Health Care System the Partner for Change award for its environmental achievements and the momentum the health care system's Environmental Management Service has gained since 2014 with the initiation of the single stream recycling program and composting program at the Perry Point VA Medical Center with the GEMS committee, notably Ballard and Mary Ellen Ward leading the way.
Currently, the Perry Point VA Medical Center is diverting about 10.63 tons of single stream recycling per month and about 6.54 tons of organic waste per month for composting. Aside from consumer items, the VA Maryland Health Care System also recycles dental amalgam and lead aprons. For the past two years, the GEMS committee has hosted Earth Day events highlighting its environmental programs and initiated an effort in 2017 to clean up the Perry Point shoreline.
"We are continually striving to improve our environmental stewardship through programs such as pharmaceutical, hazardous and regulated medical waste improvements," said Jennifer Dallaire, GEMS coordinator. "Overall the dynamic recycling and waste reduction programs at the VA Maryland Health Care System are now comprised of a comprehensive plan and long-term solutions for all waste streams, including using regulated waste more wisely," Dallaire said.