Colleen Watson – finding recycling opportunities for healthcare waste

Resource Recovery Officer Colleen Watson speaks about extending the life of hospital plastics ahead of her presentation at the Waste 2021 Recycling Webinar

Our People

June 9, 2021

Highlights

Items such as wash bowls, kidney dishes, surgical instrument packaging and PP IV bags are all used in high volumes in hospitals. Clean rigid theatre plastics and PP IV bags are able to be recycled and used in the manufacture of new products

Tags: healthcare
Highlights

Items such as wash bowls, kidney dishes, surgical instrument packaging and PP IV bags are all used in high volumes in hospitals. Clean rigid theatre plastics and PP IV bags are able to be recycled and used in the manufacture of new products

Colleen Watson, Resource Recovery Officer with Cleanaway’s NSW Education team, is presenting in a webinar as part of the 2021 Coffs Habour Waste Conference, speaking on the topic of extending the life of hospital plastics.

Colleen joined Cleanaway about 15 months ago, coming from the marine science field as the head of the invertebrate department with a company in Cairns, QLD. Prior to working in the waste and marine science fields, Colleen also had 15 years of experience in healthcare, as a nurse assisting patients with all aspects of care.

Pictured: Resource Recovery Officer Colleen Watson

Now with Cleanaway, Colleen works with customers in a range of industries, including manufacturing, retail, healthcare, hospitality and schools. “I work with businesses to find sustainable solutions for their waste. This includes education and face-to-face sessions to assist them to avoid contamination in their waste. I also perform audits and site assessments to highlight opportunities for contamination reduction and to identify potential opportunities to divert valuable resources from landfill,” Colleen described.

“I love to be challenged in my work and my position offers this – from trying to find sustainable solutions for waste items to helping customers understand what items belong in each waste stream. I also enjoy the travel associated with my role and the variety of projects.”

Coming to the waste industry with a background in healthcare gave Colleen a unique understanding of both the waste items generated and the work practices in healthcare settings. Colleen said: “I found it frustrating when working in healthcare to see the amount of waste that was designated general waste. When the opportunity presented itself to work with hospitals to divert previously non-recyclable plastics, I embraced the project enthusiastically. It is both challenging and rewarding working on this project.”

For the Waste 2021 Recycling Webinar, Colleen’s presentation covers plastic waste in hospitals – specifically ways to divert plastic waste from landfill when it isn’t able to be recycled via conventional recycling streams. Colleen said: “I give an overview of the strategy and present three case studies focused on rigid theatre plastic recycling, PP IV bag recycling, and clear soft plastic recycling.”

“Items such as wash bowls, kidney dishes, surgical instrument packaging and PP IV bags are all used in high volumes in hospitals. Clean rigid theatre plastics and PP IV bags are able to be recycled and used in the manufacture of new products.”

During the 15 months at Cleanaway so far, Colleen has also experienced the impact of COVID-19 on resource recovery in healthcare. “COVID-19 has resulted in an increase in waste from hospitals and has also put plans of new recycling programs on hold. It has put a real strain on our healthcare industry, and the safety of both staff and patients must be the priority. However, COVID-19 has also prompted new ideas on how to combat this waste, such as research into using recycled PP to manufacture N95 materials that are currently used in high volumes in healthcare,” Colleen said.

“As I am covering in my presentation there are a variety of plastics generated in hospitals that can be diverted from landfill. Clean rigid theatre plastics and PP IV bags are able to be recycled and used in the manufacture of new products. Items such as wash bowls, kidney dishes, surgical instrument packaging and PP IV bags are used in large volumes in hospitals.”

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