DISINFACTS | Special edition 2023

8 That meant that they were incinerated in specialised facilities at very high temperatures. Today we treat the soda lime so that it can be recycled afterwards; not for medicinal purposes, but in agriculture. At least it's a step in the right direction. Which measure are you particularly proud of? The big highlight for me is our digital waste management system. However, on the whole, I am proud of each and every pilot project that we have launched, whether it’s the innovative approach to soda lime or the recycling of single-use surgical instruments, which we previously discussed. Here at the UKB alone, we use about 130,000 of these disposable instruments every year. They no longer end up in an incinerator. Another good example is the aluminium packaging for stapling machines. These machines usually come in exceptionally highquality aluminium packaging. We now collect the packaging and sell it once a year through our waste management partner. The proceeds are then donated to Operation Smile, an initiative dedicated to aiding children with cleft palates and cleft jaws in the Third World. In addition to the satisfaction of doing the right thing, financial viability is always imperative within an organisation. Have the measures you have implemented also yielded any financial benefits for the hospital? Absolutely, the answer is yes. Waste management provides us with a distinct advantage. Disposal represents a significant cost component, and waste incineration is becoming more and more expensive. Furthermore, from the beginning of 2024, an additional CO2 levy will be charged for each tonne of incinerated waste. Through the multitude of measures we have taken, we have effectively managed to achieve substantial cost savings. We have been able to reduce logistics by 39% through waste separation and optimised container management. In total, we save more than 90,000 euros annually. We use press containers at our collection points and have also adjusted the emptying schedules. In the past, some containers were emptied weekly even though they were not yet full. This practice was abolished; now, containers are only emptied when they reach full capacity. We are currently exploring the implementation of sensors that automatically send a message via our digital waste management system to our waste disposal company when the bin is 85% full, so that they can schedule the collection accordingly. Ultimately, we will no longer need to manually intervene in the process. What do you recommend to other healthcare facilities that want to become more sustainable? What should be their first step? They definitely need a full understanding of their waste streams and someone on site with real expertise in waste management and recycling. If a company seeks to establish its credibility in terms of sustainability, entrusting this responsibility to an individual who holds other primary responsibilities and possesses limited knowledge of waste regulations should be avoided. From a legal point of view, hospitals are classified as waste producers and as such are obliged to prove what happens to their waste. Noncompliance can result in severe penalties under environmental law. This means that the realm of waste management inherently needs more attention across the entire organisation. But as we can see, professional waste management also pays off! But you also have to put your heart and soul into it - like you do. How important is sustainability in your personal daily life? Yes, that's true. The topic has always interested me. I can't even pinpoint what the initial spark was. At some point – likely influenced by the many reports I read at the time – it simply became clear to me: We cannot go on like this! In the long run, we are eroding the basis of life on this planet. I have two children and I want them to be able to live in a healthy environment in the future. I then delved deeper and deeper into the subject and finally turned it into my profession. ‘Profession’ and ‘future’ are good keywords to take us to the last question: How will we in the healthcare sector deal with our waste in 20, 30 years? My vision is called “Zero Waste”. I would like to see a circular economy within the healthcare sector. To achieve this, all stakeholders – ranging from manufacturers and facilities to waste management companies – would have to sit down and collaborate extensively. They would need to develop a robust closed-loop system by integrating licensing or take-back models. This transformation also necessitates a revaluation of product design. How must equipment and packaging be modified in order to minimise waste? What strategies can be employed to effectively reintegrate materials into the cycle? These are the pivotal questions we need to find answers to! My vision is called “Zero Waste”. 0 INTERVIEW Continuation