Hospitals are among our most important institutions, but in working to restore and maintain health, they create large amounts of waste.
Add in private hospitals and the sector, in just one state, generates as much waste as a medium-sized city.
Hospitals need to be natural leaders when it comes to recycling and the safe disposal of hazardous waste. After all, it makes no sense to take care of patients’ health inside the hospital while contributing to the load of toxic materials they are exposed to on the outside.
Readily available recycling options for non-hazardous items like clean paper and cardboard, sterile plastic wrap and food waste mean they don’t present much of an environmental problem. However, hospitals also generate a range of specialist wastes that represent a significant risk to both people and the environment if not disposed of properly.
Fortunately, these difficult wastes can also be easily recycled, so the main impediments to effective hospital recycling are mostly organisational, not technical.
Hospitals can have complex organisational structures.
With efforts focused on achieving positive outcomes for patients’ health, it can be difficult to engage staff in areas they may perceive as being unrelated to their primary roles in clinical care.
When a waste-recycling program was introduced into the operating theatre complex at Royal Brisbane Hospital, it encountered some negative attitudes. But as things turned out, more positive ones balanced these.
Interestingly, while leadership was a factor in getting things going, the program became self-driven by passionate theatre staff. Improved morale was just a bonus.
The introduction of waste separation and advanced recycling saw a 57% reduction in the weight of waste produced and an 80% reduction in operating theatre waste disposal costs – quite an achievement.
What was learned in this example can be applied to all hospital departments, though specific education will be required in some areas.
People may not know about the mercury contained in lighting and computer monitors, or the cadmium and mercury in batteries, or the large amounts of mercury contained in sphygmomanometers and other devices. Education on the what, how and, most importantly, the why of recycling is a key part of any successful program.
Whether it’s operating theatre staff seeking to recycle single-use medical devices, the maintenance department taking responsibility for recycling fluorescent tubes, or admin ensuring electronic and electrical waste is properly disposed of, introducing recycling initiatives can save money, reduce waste and create a safer environment.
The champions of recycling probably already exist throughout your organisation. All that’s needed is a bit of a nudge from management to get things rolling.
Find the perfect recycling partner
Ready to take on the challenge of improving your hospital’s recycling performance? Ecocycle safely recycles a range of hazardous medical wastes.
Give us a call on 1300 32 62 92 or fill in the contact form below to find out how you can properly recycle your medical waste.