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QEII Hospital has become the 16th hospital in Queensland to start recycling clean, non-infectious healthcare plastic.
In a move championed by staff, Emergency Department (ED) and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) staff now separate and recycle three common PVC products—IV fluid bags, oxygen tubing and oxygen masks, none of which have been contaminated with bodily fluids or drugs.
ED Nurse Unit Manager Tony Hsiung said his team were passionate about improving their environmental footprint.
“Nearly every patient that comes through ED has a mask, oxygen tubing, or fluids or antibiotics given through a drip which uses a plastic bag,” he said.
“That’s a lot of waste. Our goal is to get 100 per cent of those PVC products into our recycling bin.”
Community Garden and Recycling Consultant Renae McBrien, who implemented the Vinyl Council of Australia’s National PVC Recycling in Hospitals Program (sponsored by Baxter Healthcare*) at QEII, said staff education was key to making the project a success.
“Correctly sorting the PVC waste is a vital part of minimising cross-contamination from other materials such as metals, elastic straps and latex, for example,” she said.
“We had to ask if it was reasonable to expect medical professionals, who deal with life-or-death circumstances on a constant basis, to sort the plastic appropriately?
“The staff said, if you train us how to sort the waste, we’ll do it. So, we’ve held training sessions and provided information resources.”
Ms McBrien said special, easily-identifiable PVC recycling bins had been placed in ED and ICU.
“PVC plastics account for a large chunk of a hospital’s general waste, which is typically sent to a landfill,” she said.
“These items are now recycled by Australian reprocessors and given a sustainable new ‘second life’ in products ranging from garden hoses to outdoor playground matting.”
Ms McBrian said plans were in place to rollout the program in more of the hospital, with the Endoscopy Unit to be on board by the end of the March and additional areas to follow throughout the year.
“This is a major step forward in Metro South Health’s commitment to becoming a greener healthcare service,” she said.
*Baxter Healthcare is proud to support Recycling in Hospitals Program and covers the costs of providing recycling bins and the collecting of recycled materials.