Recycling Week good opportunity for ‘quick win’ to eliminate foam cups

Northland DHB has found a quick win during Recycling Week (November 7-13) by eliminating staff use of foam cups in the administration block Tohorā House.

Margriet Geesink has joined Northland DHB as Sustainability Development Manager to help the DHB achieve sustainability and thought  eliminating foam cups were “a quick win we can actually do something about” as sustainability achievements become increasingly significant each month.

Foam cups are now reserved as a hygienic disposable option for visitors and staff are encouraged to bring their own mugs. This is because products made from Styrofoam are not recyclable and don’t breakdown in landfills and Styrene breaks down into small indigestible pellets that animals see as food killing them. Styrene is also labeled as possible human carcinogen.

Margriet began her role in August after members of the DHB’s Executive Leadership Team decided a sustainability manager would be the best way to coordinate and develop sustainability strategies.

Margriet moved to Whangarei from the Netherlands where her sustainability development experience included roles at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, energy and carbon emissions reduction work, green procurement, sustainable building construction and even aircraft design.

Margriet’s immediate priorities were to review Northland DHB’s energy and utility consumption, transport and travel and waste management.

Margriet says she has talked with a lot of people trying to see what has been done in the past and to collect information about Northland DHB’s past efforts around sustainability and receive ideas from staff about how sustainability can be achieved.

“I found there are a lot of people passionate about the topic and especially around waste reduction and there have been quite a few initiatives from individual staff members trying to make a difference. These initiatives range from diverting plastic milk bottles from general waste, introduction of potato starch pill dispensers, creating business cases to recycle IV bags and high levels of waste segregation in Dargaville.”

For energy reduction, LED lights have been installed in big parts of the hospital of Whangarei, the chillers and fans have been modified, the roof of theatre has been insulated and diesel boilers are being replaced with electrical ones. Northland DHB is also looking at how it might increase the amount of food procured from local resources.

Sustainability is also being led by Chief Executive Dr Nick Chamberlain, who has signed a letter of intent with the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) network to reduce our environmental impact.

GGHH is a worldwide network of health care providers committed to making their operations more sustainable.  Network membership is currently 727 health organisations in 40 countries on six continents representing 21,000 hospitals and health centres.

As a network member, Northland is greening its operations in alignment with its mission as a centre for health and community resiliency. Together with GGHH’s members around the globe, Northland DHB seeks to promote the well-being of patients, hospital staff and the entire community.

“By taking steps to create healthier environments for patients, staff and visitors, we are taking an important step in achieving the best outcomes for our patients and supporting community health,” said chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain. 

“Specific changes in the ways we operate will lay the groundwork for better health – inside and outside our hospital walls.  With the support of GGHH, we can quickly adopt proven practices and generate cost savings that allow us to devote more resources to do what we do best: provide top-notch medical care.”

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