Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) has unveiled the latest major step in the battle to address waste in healthcare with the addition of a new food waste dehydrator which will convert thousands of kilograms of food waste into soil and save the hospital about $50,000 a year.
Director Operational Services, Noel Matson said the PAH prepares thousands of meals every day for patients, but a lot of that food never gets eaten.
“There are many reasons that food isn’t eaten, such as the patients are unwell, their appetites are not what they hoped, they have been discharged earlier than expected or are fasting for procedures at the time the meals are delivered.
“Unfortunately, this means we do get a proportion of the meals back which contributes to waste but PA Hospital is approaching the ‘war on waste’ head on,” Mr Matson said.
“Given current challenges like climate change and soil degradation, we thought it was important to come up with a solution that would allow us to put that excess organic matter to work in the environment rather than consigning it to the dump.”
Enter the PA Hospital’s new food waste dehydrator which processes food waste in batches at high temperature and converts it to dry fertiliser.
“It can reduce the volume of food waste by up to 90 per cent and it’s also great for the grounds,” Mr Matson said.
According to Mr Matson, the machine stops processing when its sensor detects the waste has reduced to a moisture content of 4-6 per cent. Steam generated from the process is then discharged into a trade water outlet where the sterile, filtered grey water is collected and used to irrigate the hospital gardens.
Mr Matson said advantages of the system were numerous.
“By using the food waste dehydrator, we have not only been able to create a valuable fertiliser to support biodiversity, we have also reduced our carbon footprint and approximately $50,000 a year in waste levies,” he said. “It’s good for the ‘business’ of healthcare and the planet.”
Mr Matson said the machine was capable of converting up to 500kg of raw food waste into 50kg of fertiliser and was one of the ways PA Hospital was doing its part to support the theme of World Environment Day 2020, It’s Time for Nature.
“It’s clear if we are to take care of ourselves, we must also care for nature. The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature,” he said.
“By using the dehydrator, we have achieved an 80-94 per cent reduction in the volume of our food waste in its first month of operation. Every sustainable action counts.”
The food dehydrator is the newest innovation from long list of recycling initiatives at PAH which has seen a total of approx. 3 million kg of waste diverted from land fill since 2015.
Of course, it’s not all about creating a sustainable bottom line; the kitchen has also introduced a meal service to Cancer Outpatients which ensures we use all the food we plate.
“Many of the patients attending our Cancer Outpatients are there for many hours as they cycle through numerous appointments with varied specialists so a meal is a welcome addition to this big day of appointments,” he said.
“This service is an additional intervention to reduce the cycle of waste and is an investment into the holistic needs of those patients in the clinic.”