Melinda Davis works in a Sydney hospital and is alarmed by the plastic bottle wastage she witnesses every day.
Melinda (right] writes: I work in a large tertiary metropolitan hospital. About four years ago, overnight we went from a jug and cup for our patients to 600ml bottles of water. To make one 600ml bottle of water requires 1.8-4.2 litres of water and 600ml of oil. These are precious finite resources that are being turned into a product that is usually single use, not taking into account the energy used to manufacture, transport and store the product.
To put this into some everyday life context. Our hospital is approximately 600 beds; based on 85% capacity(!) this is approximately 510 beds and 2 x 600ml bottles are delivered to each patient per day. Therefore at the very minimum on any given day in only one hospital, 1020 bottles of water are given out – this is 372,000 bottles annually. Multiply this by the number of hospitals in one city, then by the number of cities and towns in one state, by the number of states in one country, it is easily seen what an enormous waste problem this presents.
There is a cost to all this plastic production at both a macro and micro level. Financially, can it really be cheaper to buy all these thousands of bottles of water compared to having jugs? The cost of disposing of all this excessive waste, whether it be through normal waste disposal or recycling? Think how many tonnes of waste would be saved and the cost related to this disposal. Waste disposal is an expensive business. This money could be used for patient care, new equipment or even extra staff. The cost to the environment and our health of this plastic production is enormous, from the pollution in the production of the plastic to our inability to recycle the product at a higher rate leading to increased land and ocean pollution. This is leading to increased health problems for humans and animals. At the World Economic Forum in January 2017 it was estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish! This is insanity.
I believe not only as health professionals but humans living on this amazing non-renewable planet called earth that we have a duty to encourage and educate our employers and the wider community to tread lightly and respectfully. There has to be a better way to hydrate our patients. Please can we bring back the water jug, by any measure it would not be an insignificant move. We need to be more mindful in our everyday actions and workplaces.
I would be very interested to hear in my colleagues’ ideas and thoughts on this problem and if you have found any solutions.
Previously on Nurse Uncut:
- PVC – can it be recycled?
- Do nurses really need to use so many gloves?
- Podcasts on nurses and environmental health
- Libby: two nurses and sustainability