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Sharp Thinking

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PHSA procurement process finds a sustainable option for sharps disposal.

In hospitals, the proper disposal of sharps (needles, scalpels, etc.) is crucial for safety. Specialized sharps disposal systems are employed to responsibly handle and dispose of these biohazardous materials.

In 2019, the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) issued a province-wide contract request for proposal (RFP) for biohazardous waste pickup service. The RFP also asked respondents to comment on sustainability, which turned out to be a game-changer.

The inclusion of sustainability questions prompted one of the leading bidders, Daniels, to present an innovative solution — the Sharpsmart Container — and local safe disposal in Abbotsford, BC. Sharpsmart Containers are reusable receptacles for used sharps. Once full, the wall-mounted containers are collected by Daniels and brought to their facility in Abbotsford, emptied and, once sterilized, brought back in batch shipments to their respective home sites. As well, Daniels offered two different kinds of containers for sharps disposal — one for biomedical waste and another for cytotoxic waste — with a single pick up.

The system Daniels presented uses less packaging, diverts sharps containers from landfill, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions since the waste travels a relatively short distance to the processing facility. PHSA selected Daniels to be the provincial biohazardous waste services vendor and supplier of sharps containers based on their innovative approach and competitive pricing.

After navigating how to implement the new system and working with facilities management and clinical staff, overall, staff are pleased to see the B.C. health authorities — Fraser Health in 2021 and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) most recently in 2023 — adopt a more sustainable approach to sharps disposal.

Beyond the environmental advantages, the reusable containers offer practical benefits as well. The design of the containers eliminates the risk of overfilling, reducing the chances of needle-stick injuries.

This initiative offers wisdom for health-care purchasing teams. One of the key discoveries was the advantage of being upfront about the health organization’s Planetary Health priorities in RFPs. Says Michelle Grant, a PHSA Supply Chain director,

If we don’t ask the question, it might not come up.”

As the introduction of Daniels’ sharps containers unfolds across B.C. health-care sites, it’s clear sustainability is no longer an afterthought but a focal point in health-care procurement. This evolution in sharps disposal is a glimpse into a future where sustainable health care solutions are available — we just have to ask.