Australia’s healthcare system is generating tonnes of COVID waste. Doctors and nurses are trying to do something about it

Circular Supply Chain Alliances, News

Oct 17, 2021

In this ABC NEWS story, journalist Emilia Terzon explores the increasing plastic waste in Australian hospitals. The article highlights the work of NSW Circular in partnership with St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, Allmould Plastics Group and UNSW to explore the circular economic opportunity of creating a Circular Supply Chain Alliance in hospital plastics. Below is an excerpt from the article; you can read the full article here, listen to the ABC Radio AM recording or watch the TV feature from ABC’s ‘The Business’ segment (from 6 minutes 40 seconds).

The Australian healthcare sector’s reliance on single-use plastic has never been more visible than during the COVID-19 pandemic — and now frustrated doctors and nurses are fighting back to save both the environment and money.

The healthcare sector has been battling its environmental footprint for years.

Overall, it accounts for 7 per cent of Australia’s carbon emissions, with much of that attributed to its supply chains.

Some Australian healthcare workers have long bemoaned a decades-long shift away from washable gowns and surgical items towards prepackaged medical kits and uniforms.

Doctor Forbes McGain has long been on a war against waste at Western Health’s hospital at Sunshine in Melbourne’s north, where he’s been on the front line of battling the pandemic.

From face shields to PPE, Dr McGain has noticed a lot more plastic during COVID.

“All of this extra waste is to keep us safe,” he says.

“For instance, tens of thousands of gowns are being used daily at Western Health currently. And that’s because it’s a way of protecting staff and other patients from COVID-19.

“A nurse may go through 30 gowns in one day. That’s just standard.

“Every day, we say we’re dressed in oil, because they’re all petrochemical plant products.

“It’s been pretty trying and pretty depressing, like a lot of things about this pandemic.”

Read about NSW Circular’s pilot project recycling plastic from Covid-19 vaccinations in the full article.

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