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Beyond the Bin

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BC Cancer – Surrey’s Nitrile Glove Recycling Pilot Transforms Waste to Resource

In the realm of health care, where single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) is the norm, BC Cancer – Surrey’s Radiotherapy Department is forging a greener path in waste management. Supported by the Energy and Environmental Sustainability Team (EES), their Nitrile Glove Recycling and Reduction Pilot Project, which ran from January to August 2023, is a tangible example of how a novel approach can create lasting change.

The BC Cancer – Surrey team took on this ambitious project with three clear objectives. One was to enhance staff education on the safe and appropriate use of nitrile gloves. Through regular communication channels, including staff meetings and email updates, the team reinforced the Point of Care Risk Assessment (PCRA), a tool vital for determining the necessity of donning gloves during patient interactions.

Central to the success are two committed and visionary Green+Leaders: Cara-Lee Claydon, a dedicated Radiation Therapist, and Adrian White, Manager of Clinical Services. Cara-Lee’s proactive role in enhancing staff education and advocating the PCRA has been instrumental in instilling a sense of responsibility in glove usage.

Adrian’s strategic environmental scan uncovered a large portion of nitrile gloves being used for cleaning procedures rather than direct patient care. This led to practical recommendations for optimizing resources, such as wearing only one glove when using “ready-to-use” wipes. The response from the staff was not just positive but showed a readiness to embrace sustainable practices in their daily routines.

The pilot project team also procured three Zero Waste Boxes™ from TerraCycle® for the safe collection of nitrile gloves, with a grant from the Green+Leaders program via PHSA’s Health Promotions Initiative Fund (HPIF). TerraCycle® breaks down the gloves so that the material can be made into new plastic products. A glove today could be a shelf or a flower pot in the future! The move to recycle these gloves supports a circular economy.

As the pilot project progressed, uptake and enthusiasm for the pilot and new practices skyrocketed. Departments outside of Radiation Therapy, including Dosimetry, Patient & Family Counselling, Oncology Nutrition, and Clerical, joined the initiative. The unexpected high fill level of the Zero Waste Boxes™ showcased a collective commitment, ultimately diverting approximately 37,000 gloves from landfills and the ocean, far above the project goal of safely collecting 15,000 gloves.

In the future, BC Cancer – Surrey aims to build upon the success of the pilot. The team plans to work with the BC Cancer Planetary Health Team to extend the program to other viable functional areas and other BC Cancer facilities. As well, EES and the project team with the PHSA Supply Chain team are exploring the recycling of other essential PPE.

Innovation in health care isn’t just about medical advancements; it’s about redefining our practices for the betterment of our planet. This initiative reflects our commitment to leading in both patient care and environmental stewardship,” says Cher Kinamore, Director, Operations, BC Cancer – Surrey.

This forward-thinking approach underscores BC Cancer – Surrey’s commitment to ongoing environmental responsibility, fostering innovation within the sector, and contributing meaningfully to a greener future. The project’s accomplishments represent more than a one-time triumph; they signal a shift towards a culture of sustainability within health care.

For more detailed information about the project read the BC Cancer — Surrey Radiotherapy Department Nitrile Glove Recycling and Reduction Pilot Project report.