As central Ohio welcomes millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) has begun working with local hospital systems to divert vaccine packaging and coolers away from landfill.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require ultra-low freezing temperatures for storage and expanded polystyrene (EPS) manufacturers across the U.S. are ramping up production in order to keep up with the demand. According to SWACO, all of that additional and bulky material could take up limited landfill space if not diverted and reused or recycled.
“Protecting the public’s health extends beyond the critical, life-saving work being performed by our frontline pharmacists, nurses, doctors and hospitals, to include the longer-term protection of the air, land and water in Franklin County,” said Ty Marsh, SWACO’s executive director. “We applaud everything our local hospitals are doing to keep us all safe.”
EPS materials are 100 percent recyclable through specialized programs offered by several Ohio businesses. Phoenix Recycling, Eco Development and Fabricated Packaging Materials accept these materials and have offered to work with central Ohio hospitals to determine the best systems and logistics for capturing these materials for recycling.
Several central Ohio hospitals, including OhioHealth and The Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center, are already either reusing the EPS coolers for vaccine transport to and from vaccine clinics or returning them to the manufactures for recycling.
“It has been a year of tremendous hard work and preparation for our pharmacists and clinicians to get to this point where much needed vaccines are being administered to safeguard the health of our community members. It’s wonderful when industry partners can come up with seamless and time-saving solutions like the take-back programs for coolers. This program saves waste and allows these coolers to be reused for another life-saving vaccine,” says Aparna Dial, senior director for sustainability and strategic services for Ohio State and Wexner Medical Center.
“When Central Ohioans work together to recycle, we support jobs and local businesses, conserve natural resources and protect the environment in the heart of it all,” says Marsh. “Above all, we keep our most valuable assets—families, seniors and residents—healthy and safe.”