The Art of Medicine

By Practice greenhealth staff on May 8, 2017

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A demonstration of Tibetan sand art was the impetus behind an art project at UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, that takes colorful medicine vial caps that otherwise would be thrown away and crafts mosaic-like pieces representing the city’s iconic images and other depictions.

Beginning in 2015, UW Hospital launched a recycling program that saved nearly 225,000 pounds of medical plastic from going into a landfill, according to Karin Zuegge, medical director of sustainability. But vial caps are too small to go through automated recycling machines, unless they are collected into larger containers.

SPR17_PGH_Lightbulb_GluingCaps1Zuegge began gathering the colorful plastic pieces, some as small as a dime. But with so many beautiful and varied colors, she wanted to use the pieces to create something impactful and share the message of the value of recycling visually. So she reached out to Mandy Kron, senior art coordinator for UW Health, to kick-start the project.

Now, about four pounds of vial caps are rescued from going the landfill every week, and staff members hospital-wide are invited to grab a glue gun and take part in the art project. “The thing about this that’s exciting is the engagement piece,” said Zuegge. “A lot of people feel, ‘Oh, this thing I’m doing is not significant,’ but if you can show them the scale over time and over the whole organization—and that it’s not one person, it’s all of us together—we can have a huge impact, and it can be a beautiful thing.”