Sustainable Anesthesiology

A healthy planet leads to healthy people. That’s why the missions of both UW Health and the Department of Anesthesiology include a commitment to advancing health through social responsibility. In the past decade our department has enhanced the social, environmental and economic sustainability of our practice through waste reduction and education about climate-smart anesthesia practice.


In 2012, we began education initiatives with Grand Rounds lectures, new employee orientation, signage and a resident sustainability educator. Over time we have seen steady reduction in our anesthetic gas wastage with a savings of more than $30,000 per month. We have also achieved a 73% reduction in our carbon dioxide emissions compared with 2011, the equivalent of eliminating the emissions of more than 2,400 cars per year between 2011 and 2018. We have also reduced our landfill waste stream by 23 percent, diverting more than 9,000 cubic yards of waste from landfills in one year. To reduce upstream waste reduction, we favor reusable supplies wherever possible and educate providers to avoid wasteful set up with excessive supply opening. In just two years UW Health and the Department of Anesthesiology have collected and recycled 352 pounds of medication vial caps with an approximate volume of 20 cubic feet (about a freezer-chest full). These caps get a second life as stacking bins, stools and even toys and art supplies.

Trash & Recycling

Typical Landfill Cross Section
Source: Begin with the Bin

Life Cycle Analysis, JCataractRefractSurg. 2017 Nov
OR Disposable Waste Quantification, JNeurosurg 2016
Life Cycle Assessment surgical procedures, Env Sci Tech 2015
Creative and Interactive Material Usage Project
Operating Room Recycling Audit, A&A case rept 2015
Multidisciplinary Team Reduce Waste, Am Surg 2013
Life Cycle Disposable vs. Reusable LMAs, A&A 2012
Greening Orthopedic Surgery 2012

What on EARTH can I put in that green recycling bin?? There is now a sign!
‘What Can I Recycle?’ Poster

Recycling in the OR
Green OR Orientation Lecture (pdf)

‘An operation to turn waste into art’ Wisconsin State Journal Feb 26, 2017

How the automatic sorting process works: ‘Green Machine’ Video

What is so bad about landfill waste?
It’s better by FAR to prevent items from going to the landfill. The energy and raw materials used to mine/produce them isn’t wasted AND you avoid the toxic by-products of their decomposition. Read more and watch a video: Landfill Facts (pdf)