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  • Writer's pictureTristan Charles

Waste Management in Radiology - Single Use Plastics

A couple of years ago, my partner and I made a decision that we would try to minimise the amount of plastic we consumed and threw into landfill. We started out simple by getting rid of the "big four" (straws, coffee cups, plastic water bottles and plastic shopping bags) and gradually started taking out more and more plastic in our day-to-day lives.

But everyday I would go to work and throw out dozens of single use plastic items in my CT Department and to be honest it was a little depressing. And for a long time I just told myself that there's nothing I can do, "that's just the way the healthcare industry is". To a degree this is true - there are a lot of medical consumables that are single use plastic for infection control and performance reasons - but deep down I felt that there was at least some way to reduce the amount of waste we were producing.

So I set out with a series of trials to see what waste I could salvage and reuse, or divert from general landfill, and I have come up with three waste categories that are an alternative to landfill: soft plastics, paper, and recyclables (hard plastics, cardboard and glass).

This week I discuss what I do with single use soft plastics. Stay tuned for the others in the weeks to come!

Most of the soft plastics that I salvage are packaging or covers for other medical consumable. Things such as syringe covers, sterile glove packaging, surgical dressing pack covers, even the paper towel bed rolls come with a plastic cover!

The setup I have in my CT room is pretty simple; I just have an extra bin next to the general waste bin where I separate out the soft plastics. Once it gets full, I bag it up (in another recycled plastic bag) and take it to my nearest Redcycle bin.

What is Redcycle? They service those bins that you see out the front of Coles and Woolworths where people can drop off their soft plastics, such as chip packets, bread bags, plastic bags, anything that makes that "scrunching" sound (oh and all of those items I just mentioned before). These are collected and then converted into cool products like outdoor tables and chairs, thus diverting all that plastic from landfill.

Look, I'll level with you. I don't think what I'm doing here is going to change the world. I still think there needs to be drastic action taken on a government level to get a handle on all the waste we are producing (and hopefully technological advances that provide a safer, more sustainable alternative to plastic). The problem is we tend to take an "all or nothing" approach to this problem, where in reality every piece of plastic that I salvage through this initiative is a piece of plastic that doesn't end up either in landfill or the ocean (and then in the stomach of birds or marine life). We're going to have to clean up this mess at some point, so the less mess we can make now will mean an easier job for future generations.

Learn more about what you can Redcycle here.

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