Sustainable healthcare case study: Reducing single use plastics at South West Healthcare

Friday 28 October 2022

South West Healthcare (SWH) provides over 150 medical nursing, mental health, allied health and community health services across 15 facilities in southwest Victoria. As a GGHH Pacific member, SWH is focusing on replacing single use plastics with biodegradable and compostable products, avoiding hundreds of thousands of plastic ítems from entering landfill.

The problem

The items used to deliver healthcare services have a significant environmental footprint. This area is known as resource procurement and has impacts on both waste to landfill and emissions into the environment. Globally, 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced annually, causing significant harm via its production and disposal. Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into our oceans each year. Therefore, it is critical to find sustainable alternatives to plastic products in healthcare.


  • Reduce single use medical plastic waste

The process

South West Healthcare reviewed eco-friendly alternatives for high volume single use plastic items. A few suppliers were already providing some items made of compostable materials. SWH provided feedback to suppliers about how other items would need to perform in a clinical setting. This feedback was used by a supplier to develop a sterile anaesthetic pack. SWH offers clinical choice and trialling to review new products that look likely to be fit for purpose, and have an added value, such as clinical efficacy, cost or environmental impact. By embedding sustainability in this process, clinicians and resource procurement staff can consistently identify and evaluate new products, and provide feedback for items being developed for market. If an alternative is deemed satisfactory, single use plastic items may be ‘deranged’ – a great term for being taken off the list of options for staff to select.

The outcome

  • In one year, SWH avoided sending 328,000 pieces of plastic medical waste to landfill. This included plastic straws, injection trays, kidney dishes, denture pots and lids, and anaesthetic trays.
  • Provided feedback to a supplier regarding how products need to perform in clinical settings, leading to the production of fit-for- purpose compostable alternatives to common plastic items.

This full case study is available to GGHH members via GGHH Connect.

Congratulations South West Healthcare Thank you for your sustainable healthcare leadership!