Single-Stream Recycling Begins in MMC’s NICU

April 22, 2019
In March, Maine Medical Center began rolling out a single-stream recycling program in its Bramhall Street building. The program started in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Continuing Care Nursery (CCN), with the hope that it can spread to other areas of the hospital in the coming months. While the hospital has recycled office paper, cardboard and reusable sharps boxes for years, creating a single-stream recycling program has proved more challenging because of the risk that contaminated items from patient rooms could get mixed in.

The NICU and CCN have 10 bins set up, each with signs above them explaining what may and may not be recycled according to ecomaine, the non-profit waste management organization that processes and sorts the recyclable products from the hospital. A member of MMC’s environmental services team brings the recyclables from the units to the hospital’s loading dock for transport to ecomaine.

“Colleagues seem to be happy with the program,” said Whitney DeSena, RN, BSN, who championed the NICU and CCN recycling program. “We’ve had great buy-in and enthusiasm across the units.”

DeSena said educating colleagues about what is and is not recyclable is key to the program’s success, as federal regulations require hospitals to throw many items away.
Cardboard, paperboard, rigid plastic containers, glass and metal are all able to be recycled in these bins. ecomaine is unable to take dirty food containers, straws, plastic coffee cup lids and utensils, Keurig pods, paper towels, paper napkins and toilet paper.

To learn more about what can and cannot be recycled in ecomaine’s single-stream containers, visit