Dunedin Hospital 
– Dunedin, New Zealand

Western Health
– Victoria, Australia

Dunedin Hospital – Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin Hospital demonstrates that even without a formal environmental sustainability strategy, passionate staff and senior management support is all you need for PVC recycling success.

"There was a group of clinicians that were really keen and enthusiastic but we weren’t sure how to do it. So we contacted senior management and put together a project team for PVC recycling"

Craig MacKenzie, Pharmacy Manager

"I saw this as a great opportunity. It saves the environment and it’s a great thing to do so why wouldn’t we do it? It actually helps build the evidence for an environmental strategy for our organisation."

Cherie McConville, Director of Performance

Once the idea started spreading it became clear than many clinicians were conscious of how much waste healthcare was creating, and were keen to do something about it. They were already recycling at home, so why not at work?

"It's a positive way that clinicians can reduce their environmental footprint because everybody gets distressed at the amount of waste produced every time they care for a patient"

Matt Jenkins, Consultant Anaesthetist

"PVC recycling has been relatively easy as we’ve been recycling paper, plastic and cardboard for a number of years now. Everybody’s been able to get on board and it’s a good thing to be able to say to our kids when we go home that we’re doing all this recycling"

Kevin O’Kane, Registered Nurse Cardiology Lab

Driving the program forward was a small project planning group. Key to their success was appropriate stakeholder engagement and a pragmatic approach to what needed to be done to move things forward.

"Everybody had something useful to contribute to the meetings and they worked very well. It’s crucial because certain people have expertise that you wouldn’t know anything about."

Matt Jenkins, Consultant Anaesthetist

"We had conversations with the right people, at the right time but we didn’t go through a lengthy process of paperwork and decision-making. We just got on with it"

Cherie McConville, Director of Performance

Dunedin initially began with a pilot in several key locations which used a lot of PVC and featured controlled workflows, such as Recovery and Dialysis. Program support was comprehensive, resulting in a successful pilot and growing interest from other areas of the hospital.

"We had presentations for them, we had visual cues. We had clinical champions who were there right by the side of each of the staff members walking alongside them saying “This is working well. This isn’t…what can we do about it? How can we change things?"

Cherie. McConville, Director of Performance

"Some of the things we did was to make sure there was scissors beside the bins to help staff remove the bits that they had to. Signage was corrected so people knew exactly where items should be going. If you make it simple people will follow it."

Jo Stodart, Charge Nurse Infection, Prevention and Control


"We can say that 'We’re recycling and it has been really easy' and the ward staff are really enthusiastic about it. They ask questions like ‘What can we do? How can we do it?"

Kevin O’Kane, Registered Nurse Cardiology Lab

Finally, has all this effort been worth it? Yes! Staff are proud of the fact that their PVC products are turned into playground matting. Since starting the program Dunedin Hospital has recycled 2500kg of PVC, which is the equivalent of 3 playgrounds.

One of the nurses who didn’t know who I was said to me ‘Look isn’t it wonderful! This IV fluid bag is being recycled into play equipment’ and she was so enthusiastic. That made my day.

Cherie. McConville, Director of Performance

PVC recycling is now a part of everyday practice for hospital staff and currently operating in 9 different clinical settings.

"it has been fantastic for staff and great for the staff morale."

Matt Jenkins Consultant Anaesthetist

"The PVC recycling process is completely embedded and when new staff come into the department it’s very much a part of our orientation to our practice on the dialysis unit. It’s just what we do"

Blair Donkin, Charge Nurse Manager

What advice would Dunedin Hospital staff give to others thinking about PVC recycling? It’s really all about passion and finding the right clinical champions

"It's about getting a group of people together who are enthusiastic and can drive it."

Jo Stodart, Charge Nurse Infection, Prevention and Control

"Everyone is a link in the chain and everyone has a job to do. We are all playing a part to keep things a little bit greener in our own little way which has to be a good thing”

Stuart Hale, Orderly Supervisor

Western Health
– Victoria, Australia

Western Health — Victoria, Australia

Western Health – Footscray was the first hospital in Australia and New Zealand to start recycling PVC after one of their anaesthetists noticed that too much plastic was being thrown away.

"The PVC program is about recycling PVC, saving money and using a valuable resource rather than chucking it into the tip. It was relatively easy to find people who agreed with me that we have got to do something about it."

Dr Forbes McGain, WH




Once an initial pilot was proposed, there were many reasons that hospital staff were keen to get behind the program including both environmental and financial considerations.

“As a health service we take our environmental sustainability very seriously. We believe that we have got a social responsibility to reduce the environmental load that this hospital has, this health service has on the environment”

Alex Cockram, CEO WH

"The impact of waste at Western Health is approximately one million dollars per annum and some of that is clinical waste. Clinical waste costs ten times that of landfill. Recycling costs zero in most instances so recycling is a great way to save money but it’s not the only reason that we would do it”

Catherine O’Shea, Sustainability Officer




Whilst Western Health were fortunate to have the support of a dedicated sustainability officer to help spread the program, getting staff and clinicians to appreciate the real value of PVC recycling was key

“…. the impact of waste on healthcare is huge. And it’s very upsetting to some clinicians that care for the environment. So the PVC recycling program and all Western Health’s recycling programs really ease that tension for some clinicians and makes them feel a lot better about their role in healthcare and their ability to make positive change in their workplace”

Catherine O’Shea, Sustainability Officer



“Environmental services remove our recycling bins and bring us back empty ones so that we can refill them again. They are an important part of keeping the program going”

Katherine Hodge, Theatre RN




“I’m quite passionate about recycling at home so to come to work and to be able to recycle everything we use is great. Whilst it can sometimes be time consuming it makes me really proud as a manager to see my staff taking this on board. They’re proud of where they work, they’re proud of who they work for and to have a program like this it makes you feel good”

Simone Cooley – NUM Theatres




At Western Health IV fluid bags, oxygen masks and oxygen tubing are all now recycled as part of the PVC recycling program. Each area that recycles has developed their own unique way of making the program successful.

“At least every patient has a mask and oxygen tubing and a litre of fluid. And if we do 15-20 cases on a list, that’s a lot of waste that would normally go to the bin than being recycled”

Katherine Hodge, Theatre RN




“Between the four dialysis sites that I work at, everyone has a slightly different way of doing it”

Caitlin Wheelan, Dialysis RN




So what exactly is it about the program at Western Health that has made it so successful?

“What makes this program successful is having the involvement and the support of the executive, of the nurse unit managers, of the clinicians including anaesthetists, surgeons, physicians and other doctors, all of the nursing staff which hare just so integral and the environmental services staff. We all work together to make this program a real success”

Dr Forbes McGain, WH




“One person in that chain can make the program fall over really. So it’s important to work as a team and encourage each other and be positive about the impact that it is having”

Catherine O’Shea, Sustainability Officer




The recycling program has spread from Theatre/Recovery in one hospital to multiple clinical areas (including ICU and Dialysis) across four different sites at Western Health. At present approximately 4 tonnes of PVC is recycled each year. This is the equivalent of 28km of garden hose, or 5600 5m hoses.

Recycling PVC has become a habit of nature, and nursing staff are keen to develop more recycling programs for other disposable clinical products.


“So we’ve done the hard yards but everyone who takes up the program hereafter will find it much easier. The resources are in place and it’s a very easy program to take up”

Catherine O’Shea, Sustainability Officer

“When new members start here it’s really part of the orientation process on their first day. We show them how to do it and they see we are quite passionate about it. Many new staff members that come in and say ‘Wow, this is fantastic I wish they did this elsewhere’”

Simone Cooley – NUM Theatres




So what advice do the staff at Western Health have for other hospitals about to embark on their own recycling journey?


“I’m often telling people that recycling is a journey. You will have hiccups along the way. You will go off the rails slightly but it’s really a matter of being dynamic and responsive to those changes and having green champions who are interested in the program to keep it going”

Catherine O’Shea, Sustainability Officer

“We work off the principle of “If In Doubt, Throw It Out”. So if it’s contaminated, to just throw it into the normal bin. It’s great to get some rather than none and we get none if we contaminate it”

Jess Andrews, Assistant Nurse Unit Manager - Recovery