Australia: hospitals going green for a healthier environment

Australia’s hospitals, which release effluent ranging from drug-resistant pathogens to infected medical waste, are joining an international ”green hospital” movement to promote environmental health.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association today signs on to a 5000-strong global hospital network aimed at reducing the significant polluting potential of hospitals in areas including the reduction of waste and minimising use of harmful chemicals.

The Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Agenda is aimed at building on worldwide developments to make health systems more sustainable, lowering hospitals’ use of energy, water, chemicals and waste production.

The agenda document says that paradoxically the health sector is contributing to the environmental health problems flowing from climate change, chemical contamination and unsustainable resource use. It proposes numerous initiatives to make hospitals healthier for patients and the environment.

Hospitals are among the most intensive sectors and are estimated to consume about twice as much energy as a typical office building, because of their power-hungry equipment and 24/7 operation.

It says countries including Australia had demonstrated how basic saving measures can cut energy consumption and supports solar and wind generation to power hospitals.

Health facilities could cut waste disposal costs by better segregation of infectious waste that accounts for less than 25 per cent of all waste, with only a fraction of that being sensitive or hazardous, such as sharps, highly infective material or anatomical waste.

Hospital waste expert, Trevor Thornton, says that Australian states have reasonably strong regulation of disposal of medical waste, although states including NSW do still have incidents where medical and potentially infectious waste from rural hospitals can end up in local landfill.

Dr Thornton, a lecturer in clinical waste management at Deakin University, said hospitals were increasingly looking at recycling what were once disposable plastic and metal items frequently used in surgery.

And even hospital food waste was now being recycled for composting in some hospitals, Dr Thornton said.

 

Source: The Canberra Times

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