Left: Lisa Olsen, Clinical Nurse Specialist: Infection Prevention and Control, Southern Cross Brightside Hospital Right: Trudi Neill, Education and Product Specialist from Baxter Healthcare

Southern Cross Healthcare embraces initiative to give IV bags a new lease of life

Tuesday , 30 April 2024 by Sherryl Arneil

From providing lifesaving fluids during surgery to a new life giving children a safe landing in playgrounds, PVC IV bags from all 10 Southern Cross hospitals around Aotearoa are now being recycled and repurposed.

Southern Cross Healthcare’s Head of Environmental, Social and Governance Greg Nelson says 4.25 tonnes of plastics have been recycled during 2023.

Nelson said, “Each Southern Cross hospital has fully embraced the opportunity to recycle IV bags and reduce our environmental impact, so it’s amazing to think all this plastic, which otherwise would’ve gone into landfill, can now help to keep children safe and create new spaces beyond the operating theatre.”

Southern Cross Healthcare has joined with Baxter Healthcare, its supplier of IV bags, on the initiative. After use in surgery or other care, the PVC bags are collected and processed by Matta, an Auckland based provider of surface coverings.

“Baxter covers the costs of recycling, while our hospital staff ensure the bags are collected and stored properly for pick up. We’re delighted to be involved in this fantastic recycling initiative and to be reducing waste from our hospitals.”

Nelson says the IV bag recycling is just one of Southern Cross Healthcare’s recycling initiatives, as part of a larger organisational sustainability plan.

“Since May 2023, some Auckland Southern Cross Hospitals have also been recycling sterilisation wrap. It’s a large volume waste product across the whole healthcare industry. At Southern Cross, the plastic is collected by recycling and waste solution provider Green Gorilla before being sorted by the Abilities Group and processed by Future Post into products primarily for agriculture, viticulture, and other uses.”

Paul Clark, Marketing Manager, IV Solutions and Sustainability, Baxter Healthcare said, “At Baxter Healthcare, we recognise the critical role we play in protecting our planet and its resources. That’s why we're continuing to partner with our customers to help reduce waste and promote sustainability throughout the healthcare system. Together with our customers, we can make a difference for the health of our planet and the health of our communities.

“Since 2009, our Plastic Recycling in Hospitals programme has diverted thousands of tonnes of medical waste away from landfill. We’re proud to be part of a more sustainable healthcare system, and we’re committed to continuing our efforts to reduce our environmental impact.”

At the Auckland Surgical Centre alone, Nelson said recycling sterilisation wrap has resulted in a 20 per cent reduction in waste, and now the initiative is being rolled out to more hospitals in Auckland.

“Sustainability is a focus for Southern Cross Healthcare at all our locations so in addition to increasing the recycling of plastics we are working on a number of other initiatives including reducing the amount energy we use and how some single-use items can be repurposed. We all have a part to play in reducing our impact on the environment.”