Waste in New Zealand Health Care

Every hospital, clinic, and office finds the complexity of health care waste management a challenge. There are limited recycling options and even fewer eco-friendly disposal solutions. Hospitals produce more that 5 million tons of waste per year in the US alone, thats almost 13 kilograms of waste per bed per day!

In New Zealand, emissions from waste make up nearly 5% of New Zealand's overall greenhouse gas emissions profile. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO 2018), about 15% of all health care waste is hazardous as it may be infectious, toxic or radioactive. 85% of all health care waste is general and can be composted, recycled or sent to a landfill. 

Composting and recycling reduces methane emissions by limiting waste that ends up in landfills. To further minimise waste, the use of biodegradable alternatives remains an action step in the Ministry of Health plan to promote sustainability in waste.


The six Rs to improve sustainability with respect to waste management:

  1. Refuse to purchase unnecessary items and single-use common plastics where appropriate
  2. Reduce the amount of waste by using less of that item
  3. Reuse items where possible
  4. Recycle items
  5. Repair items
  6. Replace items with more sustainable alternatives

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