Tidelands Health among first of East Coast health systems to switch to paper straws
The region’s largest provider of health care is stepping up to help keep the environment healthy, too.
By October, Tidelands Health will replace plastic straws and stirrers with paper and wood alternatives at all of the health system’s more than 50 care locations. The goal is to reduce consumption of single-use plastic products that can make their way into the ocean and contribute to landfill waste.
Each year, the health system uses approximately 45,000 straws and 24,000 stirrers, the equivalent of about 7.5 miles of the products laid end to end. Tidelands Health is one of the first health systems on the East Coast to announce a switch from plastic to paper straws.
“The health of our environment has a direct impact on the health of our patients and the community,” said Bruce Bailey, president and CEO of the health system. “As one of our region’s largest private employers, we hope our sustainability efforts spur other organizations to consider their own.”
Americans use millions of plastic straws and stirrers every day. They are among the most common items found during coastal cleanups, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Jeff McClary, co-founder of Pawleys Island-based South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts, said the organization wholeheartedly supports efforts to eliminate single-use plastic products. The items can harm marine life through accidental ingestion and pollute ocean waters as the plastics break down over time.
“Any single-use plastic product is generally bad for the environment,” McClary said. “They fill up our landfills and negatively impact our marine environment. We applaud Tidelands Health for taking this important step.”
Tidelands Health uses straws not only in its cafeterias but also as part of patient care. Because bendable straws are an important resource for patients, the health system will offer both straight and bendable paper straws, said Gary Metcalfe, vice president of supply chain and support services for Tidelands Health. Paper straws are naturally biodegradable and compostable.
“We’re always looking for ways to better serve our patients and the community,” Metcalfe said. “This transition to paper straws is another way to achieve that goal by reducing the health system’s environmental footprint.”
As part of the health system’s sustainability efforts, it is also in the final stages of retrofitting all health system-owned locations with LED overhead and exterior lighting. The project, at a cost of more than $2 million, will reduce the organization’s energy usage and costs.