• ‘Bin Queen’ rules Australian-first recycle scheme

    The staff at one Brisbane hospital have rubbish on their minds.

    Specifically, how much of it can be recycled and turned into other items for staff and patients.

    St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital is the first in Australia to establish a compliant closed-loop recycling ecosystem.

    Hotel Services Manager, Susan Farlow, said the program had been embraced by staff and she personally was such a fan of the program, she now happily called herself ‘the Bin Queen’.

    “We’ve seen a demographic shift in our staff, Gen Z have grown up with recycling and it’s something that they just expect from their workplace,” she said.

    “We’re seeing a real changing of the guard and the expectations of this generation of staff is very different.

    “I’m always checking the bins to see what’s in there, and make sure everything is being put in the right place. I’m the resident Bin Queen, or bin chicken I suppose!”

    Hospitals can produce a huge amount of waste, but with this program, St Andrew’s can recycle more than 450 kilos of plastic healthcare waste each week.

    “We’ve made it very simple for everyone,” Susan said.

    “In our theatre area for example, we have clear bags and red bags – the red bags are for the plastic that can be recycled.

    “We have recycling champions in every corner of our hospital and our teams are incredibly passionate about ensuring the correct items go into the correct bin.” 

    The private not-for-profit hospital teamed up with recycling firm The Resitech Group to implement the program.

    Resitech's Director of Clinical Innovation, Danielle Munro, said their Brisbane-based facility was one of a kind in Australia, with the capability to “close the loop” on the recycling ecosystem. 

    “Resitech has spent decades researching the lifecycles and qualities of different plastics and this recent project within healthcare has created a new focus where we have created science-led processes,” she said. 

    “There are about 50 different groups of plastics, with hundreds of different varieties. Most, but not all, can be recycled. 

    “We embrace all elements of the cycle, from collecting the waste from the hospital and returning it to our facility where it is sorted into categories according to type and quality of the plastic. 

    “The plastics are then shredded and granulated in a clean room which maintains the integrity and cleanliness of the plastics for reuse.” 

    Ms Farlow said St Andrew's, part of the UnitingCare Australia group, already had an extensive recycling program in place.

    “We already recycled all our cardboard and our shredded paper – we had aimed to recycle 30 percent of our waste by 2025 and we already hit that target some of the time,” she said.

    “There’s so much that can be made into something else. We have a new rooftop garden and all the furniture there is made from our recycled plastic.

    “That furniture is solid as a rock, it’s not going anywhere, and best of all it doesn’t need to be repainted or cared for in the same way as old outdoor furniture.

    “And when it comes to sustainability, we do other things like making sure the fresh food which gets delivered to the hospital comes in crates, which we then send back to the food company – there’s no polystyrene containers.”

    She said it was pleasing to see other hospitals, institutions and companies in Australia taking the lead on environmental issues.

    “We realise that we have a corporate responsibility and I see that in every aspect of what we do,” she said.

    “When we’re in contract negotiations, being green is a big selling point and businesses who negotiate with us do ask about it.

    “Our patients expect this too. We have a very strong ethos around environmental responsibility, and I think we’re only going to get stronger.”

    Ms Farlow said a healthy planet and healthy population went hand-in-hand.

    “We are working toward our plastic waste being created into new items which we can use in the hospital, such as rubbish bags, water jugs and cups,” she said. 

    “As a member of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals community, we’re committed to continually improving our recycling capabilities and contributing all that we can to reduce our footprint and foster a healthier and more sustainable planet. 

    “This program will eventually be rolled out right across UnitingCare. I’m so excited about it, there’s so much we can do.

    “The sky is the limit.”

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