A troubling picture has uncovered a huge hidden problem with vaccine adoption in Australia while desperate for a solution.
Doctors and nurses join the garbage war after worrying images reveal a dire plastic waste problem made worse by the Covid pandemic.
The scale of the problem – around 70 million plastic parts in landfills – is now more evident than ever as the healthcare system relies on single-use plastic during the introduction of the Covid vaccine.
Images shared by NSW Circular, a government-funded organization that promotes recycling, have given a dire glimpse of the huge amount of syringe caps being thrown away.
Each syringe contains a variety of single-use plastics, including syringe caps and the syringe itself, which add up to hundreds of pounds.
And NSW Circular is dying to do something about it.
The organization is working with St. Vincent’s on a recycling experiment in which 80,000 plastic garbage weighing 205 kg was collected – the equivalent of 41,000 plastic bags.
The program has since been expanded to include a vaccine center in Newcastle, where 170 kg of plastic caps from Covid vaccinations were collected in just a few weeks.
According to NSW Circular, collecting waste from the introduction of the vaccine across NSW’s public health system could save nearly 70 million pieces of plastic from landfill – that would total about 150 tons.
But the challenge is figuring out what to do with it.
While the group indicated that clinical waste cannot be recycled, between 40 and 60 percent of non-clinical waste was thrown away.
If that were restored, NSW Health could save between $ 2-3 million annually that could be spent elsewhere.
“If the estimated recyclable waste currently going into clinical waste streams were recycled, NSW hospitals could see annual savings equivalent to the cost of hiring 40 nurses,” said NSW Circular.
One of the solutions is to make roller doors out of plastic parts.
NSW Circular has teamed up with AllMoulds Plastic’s founder Scott Cantrill, who turned the 80,000 plastic parts from St. Vincent’s Hospital into parts for roller doors and plastic caps with bolts.
The plastic caps are then bought from Ocycut – a Sydney company that makes parts for wind turbines.
NSW Circular said it wanted to prove that it was possible for the health sector to recycle without compromising health or safety.