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From Plastic to Pillowcases

Rebecca Struvig de Groot showing off the new reusable patient garment bag

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The Gyne Green Bag Project finds a simple way to reduce single-use plastics

A new initiative at Gynecology Surgical Suites in BC Women’s Hospital is an example of innovation in sustainability led by clinicians, and how simple changes can yield significant environmental benefits.

Gynecology Surgical Suites, an ambulatory surgical unit at BC Women’s Hospital, primarily serves patients admitted and discharged on the same day. Patients are encouraged to bring a reusable bag to store their belongings during their stay, however, many arrive without one. Previously, patients without a bag were offered a single-use plastic bag to store their belongings.

While these bags are convenient, they were used only briefly, often tearing during the hospital stay and then discarded, contributing to unnecessary waste. A team member keenly observed the concerning trend and registered nurse Tracy Vine brought a solution forward during a team “bright ideas huddle”: replacing single-use plastic bags with reusable pillowcases. Patients could use the pillowcases during their stay and after use, could be placed in the laundry for cleaning and recirculation.

The Gyne Green Bag Project launched at the end May 2023 and is ongoing. Rebecca Struvig de Groot, a Registered Nurse and Green+Leader, led the organization and implementation of the project. Clinical Nurse Coordinator Kiri Short ordered extra pillowcases for the unit, and simple ties and patient labels were added to the pillowcases to make them more practical for storage. As well, plastic patient belongings bags were removed from the stock room and not re-ordered. This straightforward switch significantly reduces plastic waste from their unit.

Rebecca notes that the move shows patients and staff that [The Provincial Health Services Authority] PHSA cares about sustainability and is taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint where they can.”

Photo: Reusable garment bags organized on shelving

In the short time the project has been active, it has diverted plastic waste from the landfill and rendered cost savings by removing plastic bags from the budget. You could say, waste reduction is in the bag.