Eye surgery waste recycling project at NZ hospital

Monday, 30 October, 2023

Eye surgery waste recycling project at NZ hospital

The Southern Cross Healthcare team is continuously looking across their business for ways to reduce their environmental impact. The team is excited to have successfully launched an initiative at Southern Cross Christchurch Hospital in partnership with Johnson & Johnson.

In the recEYEcle project, the ophthalmology team now recycles Johnson & Johnson Tecnis Simplicity intraocular lens loaders in a specially designed and supplied box in ophthalmic surgical suites.

Previously destined for medical landfill, as they come into contact with patients’ eyes, the Tecnis loaders can now be sterilised and the different plastic components shredded and repurposed to make decking, bench seating and even watering cans.

David Simpson, Chief of Strategy and Partnerships at Southern Cross Healthcare, said, “The work we do to support human health can sometimes have a negative impact on the environment, through waste, packaging and the production of greenhouse gases for example. And the impact isn’t only felt in hospitals or GP surgeries, but everywhere in our environment.

“While the use of face masks to reduce the spread of airborne viruses like COVID is absolutely proven, all of us have seen multiple masks discarded in streets, parks and drains taking stormwater to our oceans, even as we move beyond the height of the pandemic.

“Caring for and restoring health to Papatūānuku is about more than making sure we dispose of waste thoughtfully and reducing emissions. We’ve always cared about the safety of our patients and our team — protecting them from disease and infection. The way we focus on that must extend to doing the same for our surroundings, with affordable, realistic, long-term positive objectives and outcomes.”

Simpson is clear that sustainable change means every team member plays their part.

“Our hospital sustainability committees contribute to a nationwide team focused on a range of initiatives to reduce our footprint, with some good results already achieved. We’re pleased with the work we’ve done but there is more to come.”

Key outcomes achieved at Southern Cross Healthcare:

  • The recEYEcle project — diverting plastic waste from landfill.
  • Recycling 3.75 tonnes of PVC IV bags.
  • Diverting 3.5 tonnes of plastic from landfill by deploying reusable sharps collectors throughout their hospitals.
  • Decarbonisation projects and energy savings achievements resulting in a reduction in carbon of 170 tonnes.
  • Reduction of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) — which is nearly 300 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
  • An 87% decrease in desflurane over last year, removing its use in operating theatres, providing a saving of 540+ tonnes of CO2 year on year.
  • Increased use of digital services and increased flexible working options, saving in excess 50 tonnes of CO2 emissions from reduced air and road travel.
  • The transitioning of fleet vehicles to hybrid vehicles.
  • Changes in procurement, switching to sustainable products, reprocessing single-use devices, such as DVT sleeves and air transfer mats; saving 2 tonnes of waste being sent to landfill.
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