Sustainability at UHN – The Beat Goes On in Pathology

Apologies in advance for all the bad puns you’re about to read…

 One thing that always amazes me is the amount of heart that so many at UHN bring towards sustainability matters and the greening of healthcare.  Be it energy efficiency, recycling or taking the time to green their work area, sustainability is increasingly becoming part of UHN’s lifeblood.

 And one group that definitely has their fingers on the pulse of greening are our Pathologists’ Assistants and their unique program for “recycling” used pacemakers (now before you go all “ewww, gross” on me, try GooglingTM “pacemaker recycling” and see what the interweb turns up.)

 As someone who spends a good chunk of their time thinking about garbage, take it from me that used pacemakers pose an interesting disposal challenge.  Because they contain batteries and electronics, sending pacemakers for sterilization with the rest of our biomedical waste would very likely result in something exploding, which is not good for people or the environment.  On the flip side, disposing of used pacemakers in the regular garbage…well, that’s kind of “ewww, gross”, not to mention the environmental effects of those batteries and electronics going to the landfill (try GooglingTM “environmental effect of electronic waste”, or better yet, watch the way cool Story of Electronics to get your heart racing).  That usually leaves the dreaded “special disposal” option for used pacemakers which, for us garbage thinkers, is usually code for something that comes with a “special price” and a whole lot of heart wrenching extra work.

 Fortunately, this is where our Pathologists’ Assistants come in.  You see, they’ve set-up a program to collect the approximately 400 used pacemakers we get each year at UHN, clean them up and send as many as possible back to the manufacturers where they can be studied for use in improving future designs and, who knows, possibly even recycling…which is good for people, good for the environment, good for saving UHN money and good for things not exploding.

 All in all, a heartwarming story and another great example of the sustainability beat at UHN…


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