152 kilograms. 4500 tonnes. 134 hectares. No matter how you say it, it’s not positive or sustainable. These numbers reflect the amount of medical waste from just one surgery, in a study from four hospitals over three months in New Zealand. 152 kilograms is equivalent to the weight of an empty refrigerator, a small piano, and even a baby elephant! Let that sink in. Perhaps even more alarming is the fact this is just a small percentage of the medical waste generated in New Zealand and a drop in the bucket of the medical waste collected around the world each year.
For many years, hospitals and healthcare facilities have considered or started recycling programs and other sustainability programs, but these are often in areas outside the operating room. Now, with COVID-19 and the exponential increase in medical waste, Asia has implemented a new medical waste challenge. This culture shift will be difficult, but many argue that the shift is necessary for a sustainable future.