Reportback: The innovative EPIC Program to reduce single-use plastic in healthcare

Thursday 14 September 2023

The Climate and Health Alliance partnered with Plastic Oceans Australasia and two GGHH members, King Edward Memorial Hospital and Austin Health, on an innovative project to reduce single-use plastic in health settings called the EPIC Program. The project was funded by the Minderoo Foundation.


The aims of the project were: 

  • to demonstrate that the EPIC Program can reduce single-use plastic in health settings
  • to document and disseminate key achievements and learnings from this pilot project

EPIC is a team-building program which fosters innovation and change. Participants were guided through the program by POA staff and provided with the EPIC Program toolkit, including an operational framework and extensive resources.

There are four stages in the program: 

  • Stage 1: Established a baseline for plastic waste and behaviour trends
  • Stage 2: Explored solutions that meet sustainability goals
  • Stage 3: Implemented solutions, and staff engagement initiatives
  • Stage 4: Compared the initial and final behaviour trends and plastic waste results, and recommended future steps to take


What we did

Through the program, Austin Health set up an education campaign focusing on unnecessary glove use (read more in this case study). KEMH implemented a ‘nominate a mate’ Keep Cup campaign to encourage staff to use reusable coffee cups (read more in this case study).

Additional initiatives each health service is undertaking include:

  • blister pack recycling
  • purchasing biodegradable gloves
  • increasing the visibility of recycling programs
  • improving site-wide recycling efforts via workshops, recycling events and more
  • investigating options for sustainable product alternatives and trialling them
  • asking more from their manufacturers when it comes to sustainable materials and products

Read more in the EPIC for Health Pilot Project report.

This image depicts the report cover of 'EPIC for Health'



  • Austin Health:
    • Overall plastic waste was reduced from 30.6 pieces of plastic waste per person per day to 16.5 pieces of plastic waste per person per day  (As fewer bins were counted at Austin Health during the second audit, this measure provides a more accurate comparison of results compared to the total number/weight of plastics found)
    • The total number and weight of plastics reduced from 1,311 pieces/7.21kgs to 660 pieces/6.51kgs during the project period
    • Average glove use, a key item targeted, reduced from just under 3 gloves per person per day to 2 gloves per person per day
    • Read the Austin Health case study
  • King Edward Memorial Hospital:
    • Overall plastic waste Increased from 30.8 pieces of plastic waste per person per day, to 54.7 pieces of plastic waste per person per day. 
    • The total number and weight of plastics increased from 117 pieces/0.79 kg to 163 pieces/0.97kg
    • Read the King Edward Memorial Hospital case study


What we learned

The program was heavily impacted by staff changes and the COVID-19 pandemic. The EPIC Program has been the catalyst for a number of projects to reduce single-use plastic waste that are underway or are planned for the near future, at both health services. It helped to heighten staff awareness of changes their health institutions were undertaking to reduce single-use plastic waste. While the EPIC Program focuses on single-use plastics, it can also be a catalyst for change across all waste streams.

This pilot demonstrates that the EPIC Program is successful in bringing people together to collaboratively enact change in institutions that have an eager group of staff sustainability champions. The structure, resources and support provided through the EPIC Program enabled staff to connect across a large and diverse organisation, and guided them to develop solutions and implement change. The pilot also demonstrated that when the delivery of the EPIC Program falls to an individual, the opportunities to reduce plastic waste are less extensive.

Repeating the waste audits and staff surveys into the future will provide ongoing insights into the success of current and future plastic reduction initiatives, and highlight further opportunities for addressing plastic waste. By doing so, both organisations can maintain the momentum created and ensure the changes implemented are self-sustaining.

If you’d like to know more about the EPIC program, head to