Recycling innovation at Westmead Hospital’s Emergency Department looks to a sustainable future

Dr Kit Rowe and Dr Jack Ashley have proudly introduced a recycling program in Westmead Hospital’s emergency department.

Ninety per cent of staff at Westmead Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) said they wanted to see improvements with their recycling habits – leading medical registrars Dr Kit Rowe and Dr Jack Ashely to step up to set up “recycle stations” in high traffic areas.

The packaging from many single use medical items, such as syringes or IV bags, can have up four layers of paper or cardboard which contribute to hospitals being one of the biggest producers of recyclable waste in Australia.

New recycling stations will provide staff with the opportunity to reduce general waste generated by the ED located in the Central Acute Services Building and sort it quickly thanks to their convenient locations.

Dr Jack Ashely said the stations are now broken up by three bins – a general waste bin, a confidential waste bin and a recycling bin.

“Staff are really getting on board this initiative and making an effort to put the right things in the right bin,” Jack said.

“The ED produces an extremely high volume of recyclable waste.

“To think we may have only been recycling one or two layers of packaging when some items we use can have up to four layers, and is scary.

“These bins will help all staff know what and how to recycle.”

A survey was produced both before and after the implementation, allowing Kit and Jack to gauge the thoughts of fellow frontline ED staff.

Kit said the survey results were very insightful and made clear to them the need for these new recycling bins.

Staff here want to make a difference. If they can learn something at work, then they have the opportunity to implement this in their homes, which will knock on to the wider community. We need to take responsibility.”

The team has been fully supported by Westmead Hospital’s general service staff who said they hope the efforts of the ED filter throughout the whole hospital.

“Successful recycling can reduce operational costs, increase worker safety, enhance community relations, and even begin generating revenue for the hospital,” said Raynelle Howat, general services manager at Westmead Hospital.

“A small change can lead to improved outcomes for both the patients and the environment.”

Auburn Hospital has also implemented multiple waste initiatives for more sustainable practices in hospitals across WSLHD.

The ‘Can for Kids’ initiative and ‘Thinning the Bins’ initiatives at Auburn Hospital both won awards at the 2019 Keep Australia Beautiful NSW Sustainable Cities awards, with the committed group of recyclers also taking home the Cumberland City Council Community Pride Award in 2020.