Calling All Volunteers – Eliminate Waste and Help Camden’s Homeless Community

For more than a year, Cooper volunteers have been participating in an initiative that reduces operating room (OR) waste, has a positive impact on the environment and the health of our community, and helps the homeless at the same time.

As the leading academic health care system and only Level 1 Trauma Center in South Jersey, Cooper has providers who perform dozens of surgical procedures every day. Before a surgical procedure begins, providers receive a set of sterilized instruments rolled in a large plastic wrap. Once inside the OR, the wrap is unrolled and the surgical instruments are removed and readied for the procedure. When the procedure is over, the surgical instruments are re-sterilized and eventually reused. Although the plastic wraps remain clean – they are removed from the OR prior to the procedure and do not come into contact with patients – they cannot be reused and must be placed in the trash. This results in thousands of surgical mats heading to a landfill every month.

Cooper volunteers have been working with the Department of Anesthesiology to upcycle these OR surgical wraps into mats that provide ground cover for individuals experiencing homelessness. Two wraps are sewn together to make a mat, with two elastic loops on one end to roll it up. Once they complete the mats, volunteers drop them off at Cathedral Kitchen, where they are distributed to anyone who may need protection from the elements.

Now that winter is here, the demand for these mats has increased and additional volunteers are needed to help sew mats. If you would like to volunteer to sew or drop off completed mats, please email Elizabeth Cerceo, MD,  or Jennifer Garefino.