Waste is an unavoidable by-product of many human activities. Some waste is benign; some is hazardous to people or the environment. Regardless, the generation and disposal of waste should be managed proactively. Effective management seeks to reduce waste and manage its disposal in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way. Waste, once created, should be separated into distinct ‘streams’, so that similar wastes can be handled and disposed of, having to regard to the environment, health, safety and cost.
In 2013, the Sydney Local Health District under the power of the NSW State Government for Health released the Sustainability Plan, with a main aim to reduce carbon gases and their impact on the environment. It referenced many ways to reduce waste, including organic elements of food, construction materials, grass and tree waste, paper and landfill. This process aims to reach their goals over a five year period through to 2018 and I have mirrored their research with the NSW Audit Office report into managing food waste.
Before the 1990’s, most hospital garbage was regarded as ‘contaminated’ and incinerated on hospital grounds. Little emphasis was given to the separation of waste into distinct streams to facilitate its disposal. Over the last decade, hospitals have been required to conform to tighter environmental regulation.
I discovered that Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Sydney is one of the largest creators of waste in NSW hospitals, yet is the least proactive in their initiative to change. However, one of the greatest successes implemented across all hospitals is the use of recyclable plastic in the manufacture of Baxter bottles, which are used in vast quantities for saline. In addition, the use of re-usable containers for sharps is a major innovation.
Concord Hospital recycles 3.3 tons of paper and cardboard per week. On the other hand, one of the greatest constraints for organic food waste is the transition to ‘cook-chill’ meals, which constrains the opportunity to reduce food waste. Well considered sourcing and purchasing decisions that result in the provision of fresh, locally grown produce will save energy in production and transportation, and also result in less waste.
The environmental services waste team of Concord Repatriation General Hospital conducted a food waste audit. It identified that over 25% of total CRGH waste was generated from Food Services, however that 42% of this food service waste was compostable. The food wasted in our hospitals ends up in landfill, producing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
In comparison, at a local government level, waste is an important area to focus on to reduce cost and sustain a beautiful environment for residents to live in. The natural environment of the Sutherland Shire is treasured by residents and visitors alike. It adds to the beauty of the area and for many people, is the key factor which makes living here so enjoyable. Mitigating the waste effects of our activities in each domain of Sutherland Shire life is critical to ensuring its ongoing viability and protection. In the local Council’s community satisfaction survey, waste services – garbage, recycling and green waste collection – are ranked as three of the five most important issues for residents.
Below is a snapshot of the type and range of Sutherland Shire Council services and facilities that the community uses every day:
During 2006/07 a total of 98,314 tonnes of domestic waste was produced, totalling 457kg per resident per year. The waste hierarchy is the underlying principle used for Sutherland Shire Council’s waste services. The existing waste contracts, with Pioneer Waste Management and Visy Recycling, include clauses that focus on delivering waste avoidance, reduction and recycling as a priority.
One of the greatest links between the Sutherland Shire Council and its local residents is the commitment to education, which in turn betters the environment and results in beneficial audits. Council offers residents of the Shire a number of free Waste Wise Living workshops to help you adapt environmentally friendly practices in your home. Participants also receive a free Compost Bin or Worm Farm during the workshops. The accessibility online of clear information as to where our waste goes after it leaves our homes is concise, and allows residents a peace of mind that their organic waste is being replenished back into the environment positively.
Anderson Teresa, Phillips Ron, 2013, Sustainability Plan, Sydney Local Health District, Sydney, Accessed 10th June 2016, < https://www.slhd.nsw.gov.au/pdfs/SLHD_SusPlan.pdf>
Metropolitan waste and resource recovery group, 2016, Organics recycling at home, Victoria State Government, Melbourne, Accessed 12th June, < https://www.mwrrg.vic.gov.au/waste/organics/organics-recycling-at-home/>
NSW EPA, 2015, Organic Waste, Sydney South, Viewed 7th June 2016, < http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/waste/organic-waste.htm>
Sendt R, 2002, Managing Hospital Waste, Auditor-General’s Report, Department of Health Audit Office, Sydney, Accessed 10th June 2016, < http://www.audit.nsw.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/134/105_Department_Of_Health.pdf.aspx?Embed=Y>
Sutherland Shire Council, 2013, Our Shire Our Future Resourcing Strategy 2013/14 – 2022/23, Sutherland, Accessed 11th June 2016, < http://www.sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/files/assets/website/publications/resourcing-strategy-2013-14-2022-23.pdf>
Sutherland Shire Council, 2011, Our guide for Shaping the Shire to 2030, Sutherland Shire’s Community Strategic Plan, Sutherland, Accessed 11th June 2016, < http://www.sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/files/assets/website/publications/community_strategic_plan.pdf>
Sutherland Shire Council, 2008, Local Waste Management Plan – Sutherland Shire Council, Sutherland, Accessed 12th June 2016, < http://www.sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/files/assets/website/temp-dms/policies-pdf/policy_local_waste_management_p.pdf>
Sutherland Shire Council, 2015, Waste Wise Workshops, Sutherland, Accessed 12th June 2016, < http://www.sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/Residents/Rubbish-and-Recycling/Waste-Wise-Workshops>
Sutherland Shire Council, 2015, Where does my Waste go?, Sutherland, Accessed 12th June 2016, < http://www.sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/Residents/Rubbish-and-Recycling/Where-does-my-Waste-go>