Reducing clinical waste

Melbourne Health is Victoria’s second largest public health service, employing over 8,900 staff, with 1,400 beds. One of its biggest facilities, Royal Melbourne Hospital, has seen both health and financial benefits from a reduction of clinical waste – realising cost savings of at least $230,000 in one year and a reduction of 187 tons of clinical waste!

Oh No

Hospital equipment is mostly single use or disposable to control the spread of infection, however this leads to a huge volumes of waste whilst also costing the hospital more than it needs to. A lot of healthcare products come in plastic or polystyrene packaging. Plastic pollution is a major environmental issue that affects our planet and will affect our health as well.

Oh Yes

Carefully managing the disposal of healthcare waste has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, as well as reduce costs. For example, putting general waste in clinical (contaminated) waste bins can mean it costs up to five times as much to dispose of! By reducing clinical waste and increasing recycling, a reduction in chemical use and waste to landfill – and healthcare costs - can be achieved.

To promote this initiative, ‘Green Champions’ at Melbourne Health pledged to spread the word amongst their colleagues by promoting and encouraging everyone to dispose of materials appropriately - using cardboard and paper recycling bins, comingled glass and plastic bins, aluminium bins, battery bins and PVC bins. Companies were encouraged to remove polystyrene packaging when they deliver goods.

By targeting one type of recycling at a time, the Melbourne Health Green Champions were able to bring about significant changes in practice, with recycling now ‘second nature’ for many staff.

Following its success in limiting plastic pollution, the hospital now aims to begin recycling of single use metal instruments while continuing to promote sustainability to new and existing staff.

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For more information about this story please visit the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Website where the original case study can be found.

To get involved in Climate and Health, visit the Climate and Health Alliance.

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