Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP)

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The Problem | The Solution | Resources

The Problem

As is apparent from these RNnoharm pages, many of the products that hospitals buy every day can cause harm during the manufacturing process (e.g. polyvinyl chloride-see separate page on this topic), during use (e.g. hazardous chemicals and drugs), or when disposed of (e.g. mercury, and incineration-see separate pages on these). This harm can be to the worker, the patient, the community, or the environment.

The Solution

Executive Order 13101 (September 1998); Greening the Government Through Waste Prevention, Recycling and Federal Acquisition; defines environmentally preferable products as: Products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. This comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, or disposal of the product or service. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) is the practice of purchasing such materials.

An American Journal of Nursing article (see below) recommends the team approach when adopting EPP practices:

  • Build a team composed of representatives from the purchasing department and healthcare professionals from various units and specialty areas of the hospital, including managers and frontline workers.
  • Develop a plan by identifying environmental goals, and determine which ones can be met through proper purchasing.
  • Develop criteria for evaluating new products, incorporating input from the users of the products, and determine the training needs of staff when new products are implemented.
  • Ensure that the team has the authority to make recommendations for product purchases.
  • Adjust schedules so that workers can meet during their shift while still providing adequate patient care.

The resource section below offers information about the EPP process, and where to find safer products, in addition the specific web pages on mercury, PVC, and latex on the COEH’s RNnoharm site have resources where safer alternative products can be found.