Australian-first recycling program launches at St Andrew’s


St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital is Australia’s first hospital to establish a compliant closed-loop recycling ecosystem thanks to a new partnership with Queensland’s The Resitech Group.

Recycling launch
Officially launching in July 2022 following a 9-month trial, the program will recycle more than 450 kilograms of plastic healthcare waste each week.

Studies have shown that up to 3.2 tonnes of greenhouse gasses can be saved through each tonne of recycled plastic compared to newly produced plastic.

St Andrew’s Hotel Services Manager, Susan Farlow, said the program had been embraced by staff and since launching as a trial in October 2021 had already diverted more than 7.5 tonnes of plastic, the equivalent of one army truck.

“We trialled the program to assess long-term viability and sustainability, and to ensure there would be no additional pressures on our teams or impacts on the clinical flow of the hospital,” Susan said.

“What we found were so many staff eager to help and learn how they could play a role in reducing the amount of waste going into landfill.

“Hospitals are significant generators of waste, and as part of this program we’re able to recycle a range of items including disposable curtains, IV fluid bottles, pressed plastics, soft plastics and packaging,” she said.

St Andrew’s new recycling program goes beyond standard commingled recycling by segregating specific plastic waste for recreation by Resitech.

“The key to success is sorting waste correctly when disposing. We educate our teams on what types of plastics can go to Resitech and we have red rubbish bags specifically for this program,” Susan said.

“Over time it becomes muscle memory and easier to do. We have recycling champions in every corner of our hospital and our teams are incredibly passionate about ensuring the correct items go into the correct bin.”

Resitech Director of Clinical Innovation, Danielle Munro, said the Brisbane-based Resitech facility is one of a kind in Australia with capability to close the loop on the recycling ecosystem.

“It takes a whole community to recycle and we’re excited to partner with St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital, our first healthcare partner,” Danielle said.

“Resitech has spent decades researching the lifecycles and qualities of different plastics and this recent project within healthcare has created a new focus where we have created science-led processes. There are about 50 different groups of plastics, with hundreds of different varieties. Most, but not all, can be recycled.

“We embrace all elements of the cycle, from collecting the waste from the hospital and returning it to our facility where it is sorted into categories according to type and quality of the plastic.

“The plastics are then shredded and granulated in a clean room which maintains the integrity and cleanliness of the plastics for reuse,” she said.

Through the partnership, St Andrew’s and Resitech aim to recycle enough plastic waste to begin creating new products which can go back into the hospital.

“We are working toward our plastic waste being created into new items which we can use in the hospital such as rubbish bags, water jugs and cups,” Susan said.

“As a member of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals community, we’re committed to continually improving our recycling capabilities and contributing all that we can to reduce our footprint and foster a healthier and more sustainable planet.

“This program is a positive step towards UnitingCare’s target of diverting 30 percent of waste from landfill by 2025, and in the future, we hope to implement across our UnitingCare network of hospitals to increase our recycling capacity to one tonne every week.”

Learn more about UnitingCare's Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2021-2025.