Nearly 600 ANMF (Vic Branch) members were inspired and informed at our sixth Health and Environmental Sustainability Conference.
Keynote speakers Craig Reucassel, presenter of the ABC’s War on Waste, and Planet Ark’s Head of Research Dr Sean O’Malley, both urged nurses, midwives and personal care workers attending the conference to keep recycling, despite China’s decision last year to curtail recycling imports to the least contaminated waste.
Mr Reucassel described nurses and midwives as an ‘exciting bunch of waste warriors’ and said he was impressed by the long-term perspective being taken by ANMF members, who understand that there is no health without a healthy planet.
He said although the health sector’s waste disposal challenges were complex, involving contaminated waste and infection control, the healthcare sector was among many industries which are struggling against the tide of single-use plastic items.
Huge sustainability wins could be achieved by changing personal habits, like carrying a water bottle or reusable coffee cup, and by looking at how workplace procedures could change to create less waste, or recycle.
‘I’m not a medical waste expert at all. In some ways your challenges are unique…because you’re dealing with patient safety and that’s always going to be paramount but in other ways the challenges you’re facing are the same as the challenges we’re facing everywhere else and that’s the non-stop shift to single-use plastic products.’
Mr Reucassel said the World Health Organisation had found that 80 per cent of healthcare waste was comparable to household waste – general, not infectious waste.
Dr O’Malley screened a video about the concept of the ‘circular economy’, based on the regenerative cycles of nature, aimed at making the transition
to renewable resources.
The idea is to design products to be ‘made to be made again’ and power the system with renewable energy.
He said we need to keep recycling because we have a finite amount of oil and gas and need to keep circulating materials that have already been produced.
‘Using less energy reduces greenhouse gas. If you recycle aluminium, (you use) 95 per cent less energy to recycle it and put it into a new product – steel, 60 per cent; glass, 60 per cent,’ Dr O’Malley said. ‘It makes common sense.’
Audience members also heard from green champion nursing colleagues who are reducing, reusing and recycling in their workplaces, including Libby McFarland and Rebecca Pascoe of Epworth Freemasons, Jade Ryan from Royal Melbourne Hospital, and Erica Leman and Michelle Wagner from Monash Health.