Environmental sustainability is at the forefront of the public agenda, and as individuals "do their bit" by being a part of the climate strikes, recycling and so on, the finger is now being pointed at large organisations to encourage them to do the same. The Bay of Plenty District Health Board is one local organisation that has stepped up to the plate and is currently implementing several changes and experiments to help be more environmentally friendly. Bay of Plenty Times health reporter Jean Bell looks into what changes the DHB is making and what the environmental experts make of it.
Steak will be off the menu, scissors recycled and polystyrene cups a thing of the past as Tauranga Hospital aims to be more environmentally-friendly.
The Bay of Plenty District Health Board is extending its "Meat-Free Monday" trial, where café food is red-meat free for one day a week, for three months.
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The DHB hopes to divert at least 1000kg of stainless steel from going to landfill by recycling single-use medical instruments such as scissors, tweezers and forceps. Earlier this year, the DHB also replaced polystyrene cups with paper cups earlier.
The initiatives, except Meat-Free Mondays, which was only at the level one cafe in Tauranga Hospital, would be rolled out across Tauranga and Whakatāne Hospitals.
Since 2016, the DHB had been sending PVC waste material to be made into children's playground safety matting. Each month, around 250 kg of PVC was collected from the hospitals each month and recycled.
Bay of Plenty DHB sustainability manager Vicktoria Blake said she was hired in June 2019 by the DHB to help understand and reduce their environmental footprint.
Blake said Tauranga Hospital currently disposed of about 750 tonnes of waste each year. Only 170 tonnes of this was recyclable and the other 580 tonnes headed to landfill. Whakatāne Hospital created about 325 tonnes of waste and around 17 tonnes of this was diverted from landfill.
In 2017, a Beca greenhouse gas report measured natural gas as the highest carbon emitter, producing 56 per cent of the DHB's carbon.
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This was followed by electricity which contributed 16.8 per cent of emissions and food consumption which contributed 9.6 per cent.
The DHB had recently registered for the Certified Emissions Measurement And Reduction Scheme and was due to complete its first carbon footprint audit in early 2020.
It was also looking at its waste production and would use the information to help set targets to reduce the waste footprint of both hospitals and other DHB organisations.
Sustainable Business Network Bay of Plenty regional manager, Glen Crowther, congratulated the DHB on the moves.
"Hats off to them," he said. "Hopefully, other organisations follow suit. All you can ask is that organisations are upfront about their emissions and waste, and then are willing to work on it."
Crowther said he had run a workshop with DHBs around the country, including the Bay of Plenty, that discussed the challenges DHBs faced to be environmentally friendly.
He said transport emissions were the next challenge to tackle. Transport was not in one organisation's sole control so solutions, such as car sharing and a push for public transport, called for collaboration among businesses and councils.
Envirohub manager Laura Wragg said the recycling and waste changes would bring an almost immediate impact.
"Items that are made out of something that lasts forever being used in single-use applications is a nightmare for our environment," Wragg said.
She said the DHB hiring a sustainability manager was a positive move and an increasing number of local organisations were seeking to mitigate the negative environmental impact of their operations.
Waste Watchers and Zero Waste Network's Marty Hoffart said the hospital got "full marks" for recycling the metal from the medical instrument and the meat-free initiative.
He said the paper cups needed to be recyclable or compostable so that they were kept out of the landfill.
Hoffart said phasing out polystyrene cups would be a good move but questioned whether the paper cups would be recycled.
On whether the paper cups would be recycled, DHB sustainability manager Vicktoria Blake said the DHB was "... currently working with our waste providers and investigating options for our compostable waste streams."
Blake added that the DHB was considering several initiatives to reduce transport emissions, including improving the availability of video and teleconferencing for work, working with councils to improve walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure and introducing hybrid and electronic vehicles to the DHB's fleet.
'The Seven Sinners' - most common environmentally-damaging items
- Coffee Cups
- Plastic Bottles
- Plastic Straws
- Plastic Bags
- Cling Wraps
Seven steps to reduce your environmental impact
- Eat less red meat
- Reduce, reuse, recycle
- Buy Local
- Drive and fly less
- Reduce your electricity use
- Conserve water
- Plant trees