Waste-free initiative saves tonnes of landfill

More than two tonnes of waste, or the equivalent of 20 baby elephants, will be saved from entering landfill every year with the introduction of a new sustainability initiative at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW).

The Pathology Department at CHW has become the first hospital in Australia to trial a waste-free delivery system that delivers stock directly to the cool room using refrigerated trucks and reusable eskies called Silvercells.

The initiative, developed in collaboration with DHL and suppliers Siemens-Healthineers, saves 180 kilograms of landfill from each delivery; with the Silvercells eliminating the need for 39 polystyrene eskies, 156 ice bricks, 39 outer cardboard cartons, and 39 plastic bags.

Operations Manager of Pathology, Angus McDowell, said the initiative has not only contributed to reducing their environmental footprint, but is also generating cost savings and proving to be more time efficient.

“Healthcare in Australia contributes to seven per cent of national carbon emissions and across the Hospital, we generate a lot of waste because of single use items, especially in Pathology,” Angus said.

“Normally, stock that needs to be kept cold is delivered in huge, polystyrene eskies that are filled with ice bricks. All of this immediately goes into the trash and it also takes a lot of effort to unpack it all.

“To reduce this waste we’ve developed a new way, with the help of our delivery companies, which use refrigerated trucks to deliver stock directly to our cool rooms. This means no more waste or unpacking.”

Stacked up, the number of polystyrene eskies reduced each year would be taller than Westmead’s Central Acute Services Building– one of the tallest hospital buildings in Australia.

The waste-free initiative is one of several ways the Pathology Department are making their work more sustainable. Last year, the team were recognised internationally, receiving the Top Clinical Organisation Award and a Lab Award for the 2021 Freezer Challenge

The Pathology team have also established a Pathology Green Labs group and are in the process of becoming Green Lab accredited in two laboratories while working on other ways to further improve sustainability in the department.

“Our staff are really motived to be part of a Green Labs group and it has grown rapidly over the past year. It’s certainly a morale boost to do something that protects our natural environment for future generations” Angus said.

 Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network is investing in the development of a sustainability framework, which will include an action plan for halving our carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 - consistent with the NSW Health Climate Policy Change Framework.

See some of the ways other teams are achieving this.

As the Pathology team have shown, every action, big or small, can make a difference.