Recycling secure process for handling confidential materials

by Karen Burbach, UNMC public affairs | April 14, 2003

For the past 10 years, the voluntary recycling program at UNMC/NHS/UMA has diverted tons of materials from the city's landfill. Now, the program will become mandatory to help UNMC/NHS/UMA meet the federal requirements for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

"Under HIPAA we must ensure that we protect information from the time it is created to the time it is destroyed by re-pulping and de-inking," said Sharon Welna, associate director of Information Technology Services at UNMC. "Recycling is a secured process where everything is treated in a confidential manner so it does not put the organization at risk for identification theft."

Recyclable material
Almost everything is recyclable except food, food wrappers and tissues. Even cardboard boxes and mixed paper can be recycled. The following are examples of mixed paper:

  • Books
  • Cardstock
  • Envelopes
  • Magazines
  • Phone Books
  • Newspapers
  • Paper (carbonless or NCR, onionskin, shiny/coated, ledger -- colored and white)

It's not necessary to remove staples or paper clips before putting items in the recycling bins; however, cardboard boxes should be broken down.

This month, approximately 165 new, Army-green tubs will be visible around campus. The secured tubs are specifically designed for recycling materials.

"Employees can put their materials in the recycling bins and know it's handled confidentially," said Rick Boldt, campus recycling coordinator.

Recycling process is secure

Based on its 10-year history, employees are urged to discard patient, human resource or student information into the containers specifically marked for recycling. The materials are collected by Environmental Services staff and sent to the UNMC Recycling Center, where it is sorted, bailed and loaded into a semi-tractor trailer. The trailer is locked and a seal is put on the latch until it reaches UNMC's recycling vendor, Georgia-Pacific, in Muskogee, Okla.

Once the materials have arrived at Georgia-Pacific, the recycling center receives a letter stating that the materials have been received and that the items have been thoroughly destroyed by re-pulping and de-inking. Included in the letter is the security seal to prove there was no tampering with the load. The materials are processed into such things as paper towels, tissues and napkins.

Gathering tons of material

Each month, UNMC/NHS/UMA diverts three semi-loads of recyclable material from the landfill. Each semi-tractor trailer carries 44,000 pounds, or 22 tons of material. Over the years, the recycling program has diverted more than 5 million pounds of mixed paper and cardboard from the landfill:

Fiscal year -- Mixed paper -- Cardboard -- Total pounds

  • 1997-98 -- 797,566 lbs. -- 287,666 lbs.-- 1,085,232
  • 1998-99 -- 1,026,232 lbs. -- 354,052 lbs. -- 1,380,284
  • 1999-00 -- 1,124,327lbs. -- 335,994 lbs. -- 1,460,321
  • 2000-01 -- 914,478 lbs. -- 329,574 lbs. -- 1,244,052
  • 2001-02 -- 898,794 lbs. -- 459,795 lbs. -- 1,358,589

Employees are invited to bring recyclable materials from home to the Recycling Center, which is south of The Lied Transplant Center and the Central Utilities plant. UNMC recycles aluminum, mixed paper and cardboard. All proceeds from aluminum recycling are donated to the Ronald McDonald House.

Recycling containers available

UNMC/NHS/UMA employees should call 559-2163 if they are purging files and need additional recycling tubs, or if they wish to have a special pickup of recyclable materials (two boxes or more). Anyone who is in need of a desk side-recycling container, or other type of recycling container (including one for aluminum can collection) should call Environmental Services at 559-4073. UNMC is not collecting any plastics at the current time.