Meet the healthcare workers who are winning at climate action
At a glance:
Steph Hughes, Clinical Products Advisor, says now is the time for the sector to step up in the fight against climate change – before it’s too late.
South West Healthcare (SWH) has led the replacement of 328,000 pieces of plastic medical supplies with EcoAid sustainable alternatives across the region in just 12 months.
The success of the healthcare service provides a template for other healthcare organisations to follow.
Victorian healthcare workers are on a mission to reduce medical waste and close the loop on the industry’s practices.
Leading the way are Steph Hughes, Clinical Products Advisor, and Elvira Hewson, Environmental Sustainability Officer at SWH in Victoria. Both believe now is the time for the sector to step up in the fight against climate change – before it’s too late.
According to Steph, SWH wants to: “Pave a way forward for the next generation, enhance human health and protect our natural resources”.
To help do that, SWH introduced a Sustainability Committee in 2016 and Waste Working Group in 2018. Staff from right across the organisation have helped identify and embed change within their area of expertise and influence.
For Steph, this focus has been on resource procurement opportunities, with her role part of a regional supply model supporting 13 healthcare and medical facilities in Victoria’s south west.
By replacing some of the most used hospital plastics with biodegradable and compostable alternatives, Steph has achieved impressive results in partnership with EcoAid – Australia’s first company solely dedicated to innovating sustainable medical solutions.
Almost 328,000 pieces of plastic medical waste across the south west have been saved from landfill and the ocean in just one year, including:
Patient Straws – diverting around 160,000 pieces plastic from landfill
Injection Trays – diverting around 45,000 pieces of plastic from landfill or from the macerator, saving water and energy use
Kidney Dishes – diverting around 80,000 pieces of plastic from landfill or from the macerator
Denture Pots and Lids – diverting around 10,000 pieces of plastic from landfill
Anaesthetic Trays – diverting around 33,000 pieces of plastic from landfill.
South West Healthcare has also introduced EcoAid’s Sterile Anaesthetic Pack, and Steph is working with the company to develop a sustainable urinary catheter insertion pack.
Next, the SWH Sustainability Committee and Waste Working Group will focus on energy efficiency projects targeting the SWH Fleet and improving building efficiency, and also streaming compostable food waste and clinical consumable items to Food Organics and Green Organics.
Elvira added: “There is much to celebrate about what we have achieved so far, but there is still so much that we – and other hospitals across Australia – can do to reduce our emissions and carbon footprint.
“Ultimately, we’re encouraging all staff to think about how they can help minimise negative environmental impacts.”
The EcoAid range includes more than 70 safe, affordable and eco-friendly alternatives for the most used hospital plastics. Plus, 1% of every Kidney Dish sale is donated to the McGrath Foundation to help fund more Breast Care Nurses. Request a free sample.