Hailey's Heroes: Volunteers Recycle Hospital Supplies

By: Hailey Frances Email
By: Hailey Frances Email

April 30, 2009

There's an effort at the University of Virginia Medical Center to reuse and recycle hospital supplies.

Each Thursday a team of staffers and volunteers sift through the left-overs. Hospital policies are strict, so when it comes to outdated supplies, they have to be tossed, even if they're sterile or unused.

Taking unused supplies to the landfill would be easy, but those supplies can be re-used outside the hospital.

Once a week these hospital supplies are sorted, sifted, and packaged in a street level room in the UVA Medical Center. The program is called MERCI, short for Medical Equipment Recovery of Clean Inventory. Linda Varin, a retired nurse, a few other volunteers, and a head nurse take these goods and set them aside for groups in need.

"We have people come from the SPCA, and the Wildlife Center with different missions we save things for," says Linda Varin, a MERCI Volunteer.

Blankets could be used to comfort a sick animal, or help patients in Brazilian hospitals. These volunteers say hospital junk can be lifesaving for someone else.

Varin says the reward is that in a tough economy, you're not just helping local non profits.

"All the stuff we get would've gone in the landfill if it hadn't been captured...it's like a big yard sale, only it doesn't cost you any money," says Varin.

The hospital supplies will reach across the globe. Program directors say health care groups generate over 6,000 tons of waste per day. UVA is one of just a handful of hospitals who have this type of recycling program.

Linda Varin is reaching 1,000 hours of service with MERCI. The MERCI program was started at UVA back in 1992.

If you know of a local hero, shoot Hailey Frances an email at hailey.frances@wcav.tv and let us know how your hero is making a difference.

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