Our goal is to send zero non-hazardous waste to landfill through programs to reduce waste and promote circularity where possible. Our Zero Waste Committee reviews progress on our waste diversion goal and collaborates to drive improvement. The Committee includes representation from Sustainability, Environmental Services, Food Service and Supply Chain, and uses its collective expertise to enhance data collection, expand diversion programs and educate and engage caregivers on proper waste sorting.

Members of our green teams and working groups actively model and champion waste diversion efforts throughout the enterprise. They drive success by sharing key observations and suggestions regarding the placement of collection bins and signage, barriers to proper waste sorting, education opportunities and waste flow processes. These champions also lead waste reduction pilot programs and actively engage their coworkers in waste diversion efforts through casual conversation, presentations, activities and events.

Landfill Diversion

Landfill Diversion

The efficacy of our landfill diversion programs hinges upon teamwork and participation from caregivers across functional areas. Our strategy includes initiatives to reduce, recycle, reuse, reprocess, compost and donate materials. Where possible, we support local communities through our waste diversion programs by using regional vendors and donating items to neighborhood organizations. For example, we contributed 206,618 pounds of surplus medical supplies for distribution to local, domestic and international communities in need in 2022. Our donations included 360 beds that were sent to Ukraine for humanitarian aid.

We also support cleanup and beautification efforts around and beyond the walls of our facilities. On May 26th, the Sustainability Department coordinated a volunteer cleanup day at Edgewater Park. During the event, 17 caregivers from across the organization picked up over 1,300 pieces of litter.

In 2022, we diverted more than 7,940 tons, or 26% of our waste from landfill. This measure includes waste from construction and debris (C&D) and was a 1% decrease from our 27% diversion rate in 2021. Our recycling rate, including C&D, stayed the same from 2021 to 2022 at 24%. The amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) and regulated medical waste (RMW) we generated in 2022 did not differ significantly from 2021.

Total tons of waste per quarter 2019-2022

Main campus landfill diversion improvement

Recycling and Reprocessing

Recycling and Reprocessing


Recycling bins at our facilities are a visible demonstration of our commitment to resource stewardship. Recycling is one of the most well-known and popular actions individuals take to protect the environment, and our caregivers are especially passionate about reducing waste. Due to market volatility, contamination and lack of infrastructure, many communities in and around our areas of operation have experienced disruptions and/or reduced the types of items they accept in their recycling programs.

To address confusion around what items are recyclable, the temptation to try recycling items that are not recyclable and the lack of trust in recycling programs, we focused on recycling education in 2022. Our Sustainability Department provided communications on the importance of recycling quality over quantity, targeting the most common contaminants we identified in our recycling stream through waste audits. Through our Sustainability Connect Today Community, we make recycling resources available to all caregivers. Examples include signage, recycling frequently asked questions, recycling guides for our waste streams, specialty recycling request forms and a directory of county recycling websites for Ohio and Florida hospitals.

Our green teams are instrumental in sharing information about sustainability initiatives throughout our facilities. They actively promote proper recycling through daily conversations, newsletters, events (such as Earth Day and America Recycles Day), activities and signage. Some highlights of our efforts in 2022 include recycling:

  • 1,505 tons of comingled recyclables.
  • 3,941 tons of paper.
  • 156 tons of scrap metal.
  • 612 tons of cardboard.

Comingled recycling (tons)

Recycling clinical plastics

Recycling Clinical Plastics - Innovation | Cleveland Clinic 

In November 2022, the Sustainability Department opened a recycling center at our Cleveland Clinic Administrative Campus in Beachwood, Ohio to process clinical plastics and other recyclables from our laboratories and operating rooms. A cross-departmental team worked together to select and renovate a space for the center, determine material and process flows, identify local recycling vendors to process items and develop educational materials for caregivers. One goal of the center is to provide vocational experience to individuals with developmental disabilities through partnerships with local organizations, including the Cleveland Clinic Lerner School for Autism.

A member of our Greening the Labs working group was instrumental in piloting collections for the program, known as the “Purple Bag Program” for the purple bags used to collect materials. This caregiver educated coworkers on the program and helped launch collections at our main campus laboratories. Through the end of calendar year 2022, we sent approximately 1,000 pounds of material for recycling through this pilot.

In 2023, we plan on expanding collections to our main campus operating rooms following an education campaign on the Purple Bag Program. Additionally, we hope to scale collections to include more of our Northeast Ohio facilities in the future.

Single-use device reprocessing

Environmental Excellence Award 2022 | Cleveland Clinic 

One of the ways we reduce waste from our operating rooms and labs is by collecting single-use devices for reprocessing. Since 2011, caregivers have collected these devices, which undergo rigorous sterilization and quality assurance processes, so that Cleveland Clinic or other healthcare providers can reuse them. By sourcing reprocessed items, we further reduce resource consumption associated with the creation of new devices.

In 2022, we collected 15 tons of single-use devices for reprocessing and procured approximately 9 tons of reprocessed devices for use in our operating rooms and labs.

Hazardous and Regulated Medical Waste

Hazardous and Regulated Medical Waste

Critical healthcare delivery items, such as sterilization and laboratory chemicals, pharmaceuticals and electronics can generate hazardous waste. We ensure our caregivers are informed and trained on managing hazardous waste safely. We have several policies and standard operating procedures (SOP) to ensure consistency in our processes, including but not limited to: Hazardous Materials Transportation SOP, Hazardous Chemical Identification and Communication Policy, Hazardous Chemical Delivery and Storage Policy and Hazardous Drug and Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal Procedure.

Cleveland Clinic does not import, export or ship any hazardous waste internationally, and we work with a U.S.-based vendor to manage our hazardous waste within the United States. In 2022, we transported 76 tons of hazardous waste from our hospitals and family health centers in Ohio and Florida for treatment. Through the delivery of our healthcare services, we also generate regulated medical waste (RMW). This potentially infectious waste requires special handling and sterilization, and Cleveland Clinic treats a portion of our RMW internally where we have the equipment to do so.

RMW is more cost and resource intensive to treat than other forms of waste, and members of our Greening the Operating Room (OR) Committee are actively exploring solutions to reduce RMW where possible. Engaging caregivers in proper sorting ensures that we are not expending resources treating landfill waste through our RMW process. Committee members have supported RMW reduction efforts through education campaigns and by gathering data on how the number of RMW bins in a space, as well as their placement and size impacts sorting behavior.



In 2022, Cleveland Clinic caregivers participated in three month-long sustainability engagement campaigns called Ecochallenges. Through the Ecochallenge platform, caregivers select daily and one-time actions to take that promote community and environmental sustainability, and personal well-being. Throughout the monthly campaigns, caregivers observed their individual and Cleveland Clinic team impacts add up as they logged progress on their selected actions. Caregivers also engaged with each other via the team feed provided during each challenge by posting photos, responses to reflection questions, best practices, lessons learned and questions.

The Sustainability Department raffled eco-friendly gift bundles and prizes to incentivize participation in the challenges. To encourage caregivers in making their selected actions habitual, the Sustainability Department gave participants that logged progress regularly additional entries into the raffles.

In 2022, Cleveland Clinic Sustainability created teams and recruited caregivers to participate in three Ecochallenges: Earth Month: Sustainable Development Goals in April, Plastic Free in July and the People’s in October. Highlights of our team impacts across all three challenges include:

  • Avoided disposal of 11,801 single-use items by switching to reusables.
  • Picked up 2,648 pieces of litter.
  • Planted 150 trees.
  • Consumed 2,554 vegan or vegetarian meals in place of meals containing meat.
  • Avoided 36,712 pounds of CO₂ emissions by adopting more sustainable transportation options.
  • Dedicated 12,571 minutes to learning about sustainability issues.
  • Supported 138 local and/or diverse businesses.

Individual actions also included conserving resources, measuring resource consumption, exercising and making dietary improvements, advocacy actions and several other activities that benefitted environmental, community and individual health.