Gold Coast Private 'Green Group' Creating Treasure from Trash


Buckets of food scraps, empty water bottles and used batteries have become prized items at Gold Coast Private Hospital thanks to a robust recycling program that is raising money for charities while helping the environment.

The hospital started a 'Green Group' which looks for ways to reduce, reuse and repurpose everything from oxygen masks and ventilator tubes; to printer cartridges and wooden pallets.

Since last year, Gold Coast Private, in partnership with medical supplies company Baxter, has recycled almost two tonnes of PVC used to make items such as rubber hose, just like you buy at Bunnings, and play mats and surfaces which you will find in Childcare centres and play grounds.

The hospital has also stopped using single-use cups in its staff rooms and cafeteria, saving 5,000 Styrofoam cups a week from landfill; while more than 14,000 batteries are now being recycled annually.

Food scraps from the kitchen are highly sought-after as staff members' keen to live more sustainably use them to feed chooks and fuel composts; and plastic water bottles are seen as a bounty with money made in the container exchange donated to local charities. 

Gold Coast Private's Jodie Ma Chong, who heads-up the Green Group, said what started as a small effort by a few people had become a real 'movement', with staff of all departments and levels getting involved. 

She said workers from catering, theatres, administration, pharmacy, maintenance and supply are putting their thinking caps on to look at ways to reduce the hospital's carbon footprint and find new uses for items that may otherwise have been wasted.

"With the support and encouragement of Gold Coast Private management there's so many people working behind the scenes to help reduce our waste," she said.

"We have people collecting plastic lid bottles and dropping them to schools that are participating in a program that turns them into prosthetics for kids.

"We've got other members who take the bottles to the container exchange and donate the money to charities like Broken to Brilliant who provide assistance to those affected by domestic violence.

"Our maintenance team also turns pallets into furniture for staff member and our staff area - like book shelves and storage units.

“Our Green Group is not a quick fix, it’s about finding clever ways we can reduce waste and improve what we are doing to our environment.

“It’s about making changes that we hope will ultimately see a cleaner, greener environment because it's the smallest things that we do now, that will make the biggest difference in years to come."

Ms Ma Chong said the Green Group investigated items that could be recycled or re-used, communicated it to staff and encouraged them to rethink the way view waste.

“Some of the items we recycle are large cardboard boxes which are ideal for moving house, or wooden pine crates that can be utilised for gardens, or any home DIY project," she said.

“We are seeing staff contact our supply team to pick the larger items up before they go home – as well as utilising smaller items from an up-cycled wooden table the maintenance team constructed in the staff room. 

“We are recycling everything we possibly can - from plastic tubs, foam eskies, and bubble wraps; to PVC medical devices such as oxygen masks, printer cartridges, ventilator tubes, batteries, reading glasses, magazines and books. 

“The group has also implemented a food scraps bin to be used for chicken feed or compost – which has proved so popular it can’t be refilled quickly enough."

Gold Coast Private General Manager David Harper said he was proud of what the Green Group and staff had been able to achieve.

“It’s not recent news that Australia has a major recycling problem – we are proud to be doing our bit to implement more mindful waste practices and to bring awareness to the issue,” he said.

“We are seeing fantastic results and it's great to see the enthusiasm of those involved and the countless other staff members getting on board.
“There is a great deal of product in hospitals that is thrown away and will sadly end up in landfill, but with a few tweaks we have recycled re-usable plastics and expanded the lifespan of regular items that would usually be thrown out.

“Waste is everybody's problem. I'd love to see more hospitals and businesses taking initiative and leading by example." 

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