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War on waste - Finding new ways to increase recycling and reduce waste at Fiona Stanley Hospital

A war on waste is underway at Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) in Western Australia, where we won ‘Excellence in Healthcare Facility Management’ at the FM Industry Awards for Excellence 2020.

One key aspect of the initiative to increase recycling and reduce waste to landfill is being led by Serco’s waste management team, who focus on educating hospital staff about what can and can’t be recycled and ensuring appropriate collection bins are where people need them.

FSH is part of Perth’s South Metropolitan Area Health Service (SMHS), which is a member of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network. Environmental initiatives at the hospital are underpinned by the SMHS Sustainability Framework.

While the hospital’s total volume of waste increases year on year in line with activity and patient numbers, since 2018 there has been a significant reduction in the volume of waste going to landfill and an overall increase in recycling.

“The hospital generates over 2 million kilograms of waste each year,” says Jay Leonard, Serco FSH Operations Manager – Supply, Linen and Waste. “Since 2016 we have reduced the amount of waste going to landfill from 66% to 54% through improved recycling. This is a really positive improvement and we’re on track to continue in 2021.”

But not all materials can be recycled through mainstream waste management.

“PVC waste is a problem for all hospitals because nearly every single patient generates some form of PVC waste through single-use items such as IV bags, oxygen masks and tubing. While it can be recycled, it needs to be captured separately,” Jay explains.

In the Post-Anaesthesia Care Unit, where a significant percentage of the Hospital’s PVC waste is generated, the team trialled a new way to collect PVC items in 2020 for recycling.

Dedicated bins for PVC material were placed at the centralised sink areas and clinical teams were taught to cut off the connector ends on HVIV bags and remove nose clips and elastic headbands from masks before placing the clean PVC into the bins.

Following its success, the initiative has been expanded into theatres and the rehabilitation unit, and other areas are planned for 2021.

Where previously the PVC waste was incinerated through the clinical waste stream, the PVC collected now is used to create road base and impact flooring for children’s playgrounds.

“The single use requirement of many items in hospitals due to infection prevention means that it’s difficult to reduce the volume of waste a hospital generates,” says Jay. “This is a problem for all hospitals around the world.”

“What we can do is put in place education, information and the right tools to empower people to recycle as much as possible. This then reduces the amount of waste that goes to landfill.”

The team aim to continue reducing the total landfill amount each year. Work is also underway to identify opportunities to make small changes that could have a big impact long term, such as switching from plastic pill cups to paper pills cups.

“We have lots of conversations with people around the hospital about what they can do to raise awareness about recycling opportunities,” says Jay. “Everyone wants to do the right thing – we just need to give them the right tools and education to do so.”

Serco FSH Contract Director, Helen Robinson, says the recycling program led by the waste management team is just one way in which Serco is supporting SMHS’s sustainability strategy as the Facility Management provider.

“Serco is represented on the Fiona Stanley Hospital Sustainability Committee, which meets monthly to support and drive initiatives across all areas of the hospital. The committee includes doctors, nurses, administration and representatives from other Serco FSH Facility Management services. This level of integration reflects our strong partnership with the Hospital,” Helen said.

Another recent example is the new ‘My Choice’ menu introduced by our catering team at FSH, which has reduced kitchen waste by more than 4,000 kilograms a year whilst enhancing the patient experience.

By moving from a cyclic 14-day menu with limited choices to a full fixed menu providing up to 17 choices for every meal, the team have dramatically reduced food waste, down to 1-2kg a day from more than 12kg a day. The menu also caters for more than 150 allergies and was developed in consultation with the hospital's dieticians and nutrition specialists.

The team won ‘Best Project’ for the new service at the Australian Institute of Hospitality in Healthcare Awards in November 2020.