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This project was undertaken to better understand the waste management processes at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. The project findings and report are already having an impact on waste management at the hospital, with changes to practice identified that would improve effectiveness, such as removing the need to double handle domestic wastes. The project has also inspired some new ideas about how to improve employee waste management behaviour. In addition, the report will be used to inform the waste management contract tendering process for the hospital in 2016.
Process mapping of the waste pathways was conducted with the management level employees responsible for waste management across the hospital site. The process by which the different types of waste flowed from disposal at the ward/department level to collection by the external waste contractor and the locations in which waste was stored were mapped. Hospital employees completed a questionnaire, developed by medical students Nicole Needham and Kate Penny, about their current perceptions and use of recycling systems and their concern about wastes which are not currently recycled at the hospital.
The process for disposal and collection of clinical wastes has been well refined and simplified. Much of the clinical waste was stored at the ward/department level, collected by the hospital Waste Team and taken to a central storage area for the main hospital building and local storage areas for outlying buildings, before collection by the external waste contractor. Domestic waste was collected by the Waste Team from across the whole site and taken to a central storage area to be compacted. By compacting domestic waste, prior to collection by the external waste contractor, the hospital is able to reduce the number of collections per week, thereby reducing the cost of domestic waste disposal.
Recyclable wastes had the most variegated disposal pathways. Different hospital teams were responsible for the collection of different wastes from the wards/departments around the hospital. The different recyclable wastes were stored in different areas due to the need for segregation and collected by different external waste contractors.
The majority of the waste around the site flowed from the wards/departments to either the Energy Centre, the Pathology Lab storage area or the Estates yard within the hospital site. This centralised method of waste storage allowed the wastes to be monitored, kept secure and collected easily by external contractors.
The questionnaire revealed that the majority of hospital employees were aware of the recycling facilities available to them. However, a large minority of hospital employees are not aware of what wastes could be recycled and where to recycle them. The employees also thought more could be done to recycle wastes around the hospital, but not all employees were equally concerned about these issues.
The health and social care waste management behaviour improvement framework was used to highlight the main factors to consider when trying to change employee waste management behaviour. This included information about recycling, appropriate waste management practices and why these practices are important in the wider context of the hospital and the environment. It would be useful to provide all employees with this information during training sessions and around the workplace setting. This would help the hospital employee's `workplace-self' to know how to recycle all types of waste, and the necessity of these practices in relation to their work role and the wider environmental context.
Luke Mitchell, Frank Alstead and Paul Jepp; Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Estates Department.