Healthcare waste recycling initiative to repurpose IV bags

Tuesday, 07 May, 2024

Healthcare waste recycling initiative to repurpose IV bags

New Zealand’s Southern Cross Healthcare has embraced a recycling initiative in which its IV bags are given new life as a surface cover in children’s playgrounds.

PVC IV bags from all 10 Southern Cross hospitals around Aotearoa are now being recycled and repurposed, with 4.25 tonnes of plastics recycled during 2023, according to Southern Cross Healthcare’s Head of Environmental, Social and Governance, Greg Nelson.

“Each Southern Cross hospital has fully embraced the opportunity to recycle IV bags and reduce our environmental impact, so it’s amazing to think all this plastic, which otherwise would’ve gone into landfill, can now help to keep children safe and create new spaces beyond the operating theatre,” Nelson said.

Southern Cross Healthcare is collaborating with Baxter Healthcare, its supplier of IV bags, on the initiative. After use in surgery or other care, the PVC bags are collected and processed by Matta, an Auckland-based provider of surface coverings.

“Baxter covers the costs of recycling, while our hospital staff ensure the bags are collected and stored properly for pick-up. We’re delighted to be involved in this fantastic recycling initiative and to be reducing waste from our hospitals,” Nelson said.

The IV bag recycling is just one of Southern Cross Healthcare’s recycling initiatives. “Since May 2023, some Auckland Southern Cross Hospitals have also been recycling sterilisation wrap,” Nelson said.

“It’s a large-volume waste product across the whole healthcare industry. At Southern Cross, the plastic is collected by recycling and waste solution provider Green Gorilla before being sorted by the Abilities Group and processed by Future Post into products primarily for agriculture, viticulture and other uses.”

Paul Clark, Marketing Manager, IV Solutions and Sustainability, Baxter Healthcare, said that since 2009, Baxter’s Plastic Recycling in Hospitals program had diverted thousands of tonnes of medical waste away from landfill. “We’re proud to be part of a more sustainable healthcare system, and we’re committed to continuing our efforts to reduce our environmental impact,” he said.

At the Auckland Surgical Centre alone, Nelson said recycling sterilisation wrap has resulted in a 20% reduction in waste, with the initiative now being rolled out to more hospitals in Auckland.

“Sustainability is a focus for Southern Cross Healthcare at all our locations, so in addition to increasing the recycling of plastics we are working on a number of other initiatives including reducing the amount of energy we use and how some single-use items can be repurposed. We all have a part to play in reducing our impact on the environment.”

Image caption: (L–R) Lisa Olsen, Clinical Nurse Specialist: Infection Prevention and Control, Southern Cross Brightside Hospital with Trudi Neill, Education and Product Specialist from Baxter Healthcare.

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