Department of Health

Western Health - sustainability officer

  • 05 October 2015
  • Duration: 04:14
  • My name's Catherine O'Shea and I have become the Sustainability Officer at Western Health about six months ago.

    It was a new position created at that time and I'm really enjoying it. There's so much low hanging fruit that you can do in healthcare that immediately… that has cost savings as opposed to cost impost which is always a good way to start a position, to get some runs on the board and then start talking about the more expensive, I guess, options in sustainability.

    Our CEO is very supportive of green initiatives and sustainability. So, we took the approach of setting up a sustainability committee. We've got 20 members and they range in seniority, but the health service is very much represented within the committee, and that really helps to problem solve or to work through what the likely barriers might be when you're thinking about initiatives and projects.

    Waste management is certainly an area that engages staff and I think that's really important to take the staff on the journey, rather than insulate them from it. The first thing people said to me when I arrived is, "Why haven't we got public recycling? I don't like throwing things in the bin when I'm used to doing that at home." So, certainly it should at least reflect public policy.

    Every year the waste levies go up, a new wave of opportunity comes on board and I think that is what has brought the soft plastics to a marginal, recyclable opportunity now, but I think the feeders are a good place to look for waste because it's generally clean, medical waste and it produces most of the waste out of a hospital, so that's a good opportunity.

    Energy efficiency is a great… has got some great paybacks - lighting and water projects, flow restrictors and dual flush toilets. There's a lot of projects that have got very good return on investment, so are a lot easier to talk to management about because they represent savings instead of costs.

    We're recycling a lot of different things – printer and toner cartridges, fluorescent tubes and batteries, CSSD wrap, organic waste from our kitchens and production kitchen.

    We have tried to engage wherever possible with local industry, rather than recycling offshore. It means a lot to us to keep the recycling onshore.

    Our PVC recycling program is turned into hoses in Dandenong by a local recycler. Our soft plastics waste stream is being turned into furniture and speed humps and bollards and fit for very good purpose products locally in Laverton. Our printer and toner cartridges are turned into pens, rulers – all sorts of plastics products, irrigation bags and oxygen masks and tubing, which are manufactured into hoses locally.

    It really helps if you can perhaps have one audit, either an electrical or an energy audit, or a waste audit. It gives you a very good foundation to start on and to make decisions on where you might otherwise feel unsure about making that decision.

    If you don't have a dedicated sustainability officer or sustainability resource within your healthcare service, it doesn't mean you can't start. There's those opportunities in energy, water, waste all still exist by virtue of just collecting a team of likeminded people together. It doesn't… probably even three is enough to start with. Just to have the conversation and think about next steps and what each of you can do, who each of you can then join with and just start.

Catherine O'Shea, Sustainability Officer Western Health, talks health service sustainability.

Reviewed 05 October 2015


Was this page helpful?