Onto a winner: How an Auburn Hospital recycling project is promoting sustainability and saving money

Auburn Recycling project receives Banksia award. Left to right: Auburn Hospital acting general manager Kyle Cain, senior nurse manager Kristina Roberts, patient services assistant Helen Sala, general services manager Carlos Chaves, nurse Lisa Phillips, and Cans for Kids founder Alex Roberts.

A group of staff who go above and beyond in their roles to improve Auburn Hospital’s environmental impact have been recognised in the inaugural NSW Sustainability Awards, presented by the Banksia Foundation.

The Auburn Hospital Recycling Team was announced as a finalist by Treasurer Matt Kean in the NSW Circular Transition Award category.

The team’s efforts were also acknowledged in the Sustainable Cities Award for an incredible seventh time this year, receiving the Community Spirit and Inclusion Award recognising their commitment to the community.

This is the seventh Sustainable Cities Award we have won since 2017, but this is perhaps the most significant because it recognises not only the team’s amazing commitment to the environment but their commitment to the community they serve every day and the global community this multicultural group feels so a part of.”

Kristina Roberts, after hours nurse manager of Auburn Hospital

The Auburn Hospital recycling project was founded by Alex Roberts, the son of Kristina Roberts, and initially started as a can recycling project in school.

Under the action of General Services staff it grew into a much greater project, recycling everything from containers, plastic bowls and kidney dishes, to decommissioned medical equipment including unwanted trolleys and beds.

The project also donates unwanted equipment and out of date stock to organisations that can utilise them.

As well as the positive environmental impacts of the initiative, the project has reduced costs associated with waste disposal. The approximate savings are:

  • $970 per month from one less skip bin being emptied;
  • $72 per month from recycling bottles and cans resulting in four less wheelie bins being collected; and
  • $300 per month from directing plastic bowls, kidney dishes, and other waste away from landfill resulting in six less wheelie bins a week being emptied.
Auburn Recycling project receives Banksia award. Team photo

Alex’s passion for the environment has also seen him land work as a Resource Recovery project officer at Cumberland City Council.

“I am amazed to see just how much this project has expanded and evolved over the last 17 years and just how successful it has become, especially in the face of the challenges created by COVID,” Alex said.

“I am incredibly proud of this team, they supported me as a little boy wanting to save the environment and help those in the developing world, I hope to continue to support them  well into its future as a volunteer and consultant.”

Over 200kg of plastic lids collected from throughout the hospital have been donated to “Lids for Kids”, an organisation that turns them into prosthetic limbs for children.

Auburn Recycling project receives Banksia award. Left to right: Alex Robertson (Cans for Kids founder), Kristina Roberts (Project coordinator-senior nurse manager), Carlos Chaves (General Service Manager)

Excess syringes still in their sterile packaging that would otherwise be thrown away are passed onto animal charities to feed and medicate orphaned native wildlife.

If that wasn’t enough, $100 from the can and bottle project get donated each month to “Save The Children” charity. Recycling 100 cans or bottles raises enough funds to:

  • Vaccinate five children for life;
  • Provide a month’s nourishment to an impoverished child in Yemen;
  • Dig one well, which will provide an African village with fresh water; or
  • Provide emergency shelter to a family after an earthquake

The team members involved in this project have demonstrated exceptional initiative, commitment and leadership, and are representative of the incredible workforce we have at Auburn Hospital.”

Kyle Cain, acting general manager of Auburn Hospital

The new NSW Sustainability Awards, presented by Banksia Foundation, have recognised a range of initiatives working towards a more sustainable future across seven award categories, which celebrate businesses, communities, individuals and governments making a positive impact on the world.

The Sustainable Cities Awards program was established in 1994, rewarding and recognising projects around litter, waste management, recycling and other environmental areas in metropolitan councils and urban communities.