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Hospitals urged to reduce plastic waste

Anna Mogato
International NGO Health Care Without Harm wants to influence hospitals to reduce plastic use and help local government units craft better policies that can also guide hospitals

WASTE PROBLEM. Hospitals also generate a lot of plastic waste, which not only harms the environment, but also costs them money. Photo from Shutterstock

MANILA, Philippines – To help hospitals become more environment-friendly,  an international nongovernmental organization has launched a toolkit which serves as a guide for auditing plastic waste. (READ: Philippine survey shows ‘shocking’ plastic waste)

Launched on on Tuesday, June 4, the Health Care without Harm (HCWH) toolkit also helps hospitals identify alternatives they can adopt to lessen the use of single-use plastic. 

HCWH conducted plastic waste audits on 3 private hospitals in the Philippines and two hospitals in Indonesia. The Philippine hospitals are Mary Johnston Hospital, Alabang Medical Clinic, and St Paul Hospital Cavite; while the Indonesian hspitals are Universitas Gadjah Mada Academic Hospital and Syamsudin Hospital.

Ultimately, HCWH Asia executive director Ramon San Pascual said their goal is to influence hospitals into shifting to eco-friendly materials and help local government units (LGU) craft better policies that can also guide hospitals. 

As soon as the newly-elected local officials got settled, San Pascual also said that they would be working with LGUs to review their solid waste management policies. 

We boldly say that hospitals have a huge role in…articulating the health impact and in influencing policies. This is what we want the toolkit initative to move forward to. Hopefully it will catch up to other Southeast Asian countries,” he added.  

Preliminary audit findings

According to the HCWH  report, plastic wastes take up 40% to 70% of the total waste generated by the audited hospitals. San Pascual also noted that only 9% of the plastic waste generated by the hospitals were recyclable. (READ: Single-use plastics, still the environment’s number 1 enemy)

Aside from the lack of category labels which make it harder to recycle, the audit also found that 40% to 80% of the items did not bear the manufacturer’s name, making it more difficult to track the top sources of the plastic waste. 

In the case of Mary Johnston Hospital, the audit also showed that the hospital spent P16,250 a day on garbage disposal.

Since then, Mary Johnston CEO Glenn Paraso said that they have imposed stricter monitoring of waste segragation and reviewed the placement of their infectious waste bins to prevent the mixing of non-infenctious waste in these bins. 

With better segregation, Paraso said they eyed to reduce their garbage disposal costs by 15%. 

Alabang Medical Clinic and St Paul Hospital Cavite also made moves to reduce their waste by getting rid of products that make use of single-use plastic, and by testing the feasibility of cloth diapers. 

HCWH said the findings in the audits “empowered and encouraged these 5 hospitals to do take action and responsibility in:

  • avoiding use and finding alternatives to plastic to reduce plastic waste generation
  • segregating at source to increase recycling and repurposing plastics
  • communicating with manufacturers and other healthcare providers to drive the market  and shift dependence on plastics

What about public hospitals?

To widen its reach to also cover public hospitals, HCWH partnered with the University of the Philippines Manila’s College of Public Health. 

Rubina Abaya, a pharmacist and a member of the healthcare waste management committee at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), said that even with the Department of Health’s own audits, government hospitals still have some shortcomings when it comes to waste segregation and disposal.

Abaya said that they planned to repurpose papers to package medicines and reuse bottles for liquids used for external preparations. She also stressed the importance of education and awareness on waste segregation and disposal. 

The PGH has prohibited bringing in styrofoam and plastic inside its premises. The hospital’s pharmacy also requires relatives or patients to bring their own canvas or eco-bags to pick up medicines. – Rappler.com