Inspired by the amplified courage, empathy and continuing dedication of healthcare professionals over the past two years, the Sculpture and Fashion students of North Bergen High School, North Bergen, NJ, created an elegant, angelic-type dress using clean, recycled blue (sterilization) wrap, the material that surgical devices are wrapped in, sourced from Hackensack University Medical Center. The story behind the design of the dress - aptly named “The Nightingale” - was that it was submitted to a contest sponsored by Junk Kouture, an organization that challenges high school students, aged 13-18, to design, create and model couture made from 100% recycled materials.
Blue wrap plays a critical role in maintaining the sterility of surgical instruments prior to use in the operating room. But Practice Greenhealth estimates some 255 million pounds of it is thrown away each year.
For hospitals without a sustainability program, “what to do with all that wrap” is a common dilemma. For those intent on reducing their environmental footprint, like Hackensack University Medical Center, the durable fabric has endless possibilities which is why it was donated to North Bergen High School.
One study shows that blue wrap equates to 19% of the medical waste stream. The wrap made of 99% polypropylene then ends up in landfills where it can take anywhere from 20-30 years to totally break down. This characteristic poses massive environmental concerns because the additives used in the manufacturing may include toxins like cadmium and lead.
“Donating the blue wrap to North Bergen High School where the students will repurpose it into something new and exciting is a wonderful collaboration,” says Bonnie Eskenazi, Managing Director, The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® at Hackensack University Medical Center. “It gives our hospital a significant opportunity to reduce waste while sparking creativity and giving new life to the product.”
The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® at Hackensack University Medical Center recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. The Center’s mission is to identify, control and ultimately prevent toxic exposures in the environment that threaten our children's health.
“The Nightingale,” which is also made of discarded pool insulation, is meant to symbolize the bravery and comfort that healthcare heroes embody everyday. Students incorporated 600+ flowers, as a symbol of growth and a set of wings made out of polyethylene foam to subtly recognize the Nightingale bird, leading back to Florence Nightingale who was the first nurse who developed the standard of care experienced in the medical industry. Students say that the wings represent a mythological impact nurses have on our lives and wings helped carry that message.
This masterpiece required the help and contribution of two supervising North Bergen High School teachers - Mrs. Marlene Sapoff, Fashion and Interior Design Teacher and Mr. Steven Defendini, Sculpture Teacher and Art Director - and fashion students Christopher King, Myles Perez, Jazzlynn Vargas, and Josselyn Garcia.
Maggy Petrosian, long-time HUMC volunteer at The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®, helps prepare the repurposed blue wrap. She painstakingly removes the many pieces of tape that are affixed to the wrap and also separates the blue and white sheets, so that they can be used for art and fashion projects.
“This dress is a way for us to express our enormous gratitude to all healthcare workers,” said Sapoff. The finalists of the Junk Kouture contest are expected to be chosen in June.
“The Nightingale” was a true team effort, and Hackensack University Medical Center was proud to be a part of such a beautiful story and creation.