MONDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Implementing practical, environmentally friendly practices in operating rooms and other hospital facilities could reduce health-care costs without compromising patient safety, says a new study.

In the United States, health-care facilities are a major source of waste products, producing more than 6,600 tons per day and more than 4 billion pounds a year. Nearly 70 percent of hospital waste is produced by operating rooms and labor-and-delivery suites.

Operating rooms have energy-sucking overhead lights and it's common for OR staff to open sterilized equipment that is never used, and to fill red bags that are labeled as medical waste with harmless trash that could be disposed of more cheaply, said the Johns Hopkins researchers.

"There are many strategies that don't add risk to patients but allow hospitals to cut waste and reduce their carbon footprints," study lead author Dr. Martin A. Makary, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a Hopkins news release.

He and his colleagues reviewed research on hospitals' environmental practices and then convened a panel of experts to create a list of practical eco-friendly strategies that could be used in operating rooms.

The top five strategies were: cutting down on and separating operating room waste; reprocessing single-use medical devices; considering the environment when making purchasing decisions; improving energy consumption; and improved management of pharmacy waste.

The study appears in the February issue of the journal Archives of Surgery.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips for going green.