Calvary Launceston hospitals go green

Nurse Stephanie Robinson looked at the bags of discarded sterilisation wraps collected after a day of surgery in the operating theatres at Calvary St Luke’s Hospital and pondered how it could be kept out of landfill.

At the other end of the state, Mat Usher from remanufacturing start-up GreenMed was asking similar questions. Could the single-use plastic wrap used to cover surgical instrument trays be recycled and returned to the health sector in the form of new, remanufactured products.

three members of hospital staff posing with recyclable materials

The two eventually connected in what was the beginning of a collaboration that has diverted about 4000 kilograms of waste from landfill in the past six months alone.

About Calvary’s Involvement

The first trial of the Keep Me in the Loop® program began at Calvary’s Hobart hospitals, Calvary St Johns and Calvary Lenah Valley, in May. Where an impressive 3700 kilograms of the clean, single-use material has already been saved from landfill.

It has now come full circle with collections now underway at Calvary’s two Launceston hospitals and the program has expanded to include harder unsoiled plastics such as bowls and bottles.

More than 200 kilograms has already been collected in a matter of weeks and Stephanie couldn’t be more pleased.

“It was several years ago. I looked at the amount of waste we were generating and thought we could be doing it better,” recalled Stephanie.

“I thought that we could make a difference in ways other than helping our patients. We can make a difference in the community. We can make an impact.

“Every tray of surgical instruments has the sterilised wrap covering it and in any given surgery you might use one tray, or 12, or 20, or more depending on the surgery. That’s a lot. If we can cut what goes to landfill by a third or a half, that’s great.”

Manager of Perioperative Services for Calvary St Luke’s and Calvary St Vincent’s Garry Stratton says staff are proud that they are helping to reduce what goes into landfill.

“And they feel that they are doing something to help the planet.

“As an organisation, Calvary is committed to responsibly managing our precious resources now and into the future, and I’m proud also that this initiative is being driven by staff themselves. Steph in particular has really been a driving force to make this happen and champion it,” Mr Stratton said.

GreenMed® Director, Mat Usher, said processing the clean hospital sterilisation wrap required little water use, released no chemicals or toxins. Medical courier vans, which often return to Hobart empty, are used to transport the material to a storage facility, helping to reduce costs and the transportation footprint.

“Our Keep Me in the Loop® program aims to create products that can be recollected and re-recycled multiple times, ensuring we achieve the greatest bang for our environmental buck in hospital plastic use,” Mr Usher said. “We are hoping to create a circular economy for healthcare waste.”

Tray corner protectors, designed to elevate and stablise surgical kits, will be the first product GreenMed will produce using the hospital sterilisation wrap. 

a tray of recyclable surgical materials

Although small quantities have been produced to date, remanufacturing will ramp up when a state-of-the-art facility is completed near Hobart in mid-2024.