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Green+Leader Spotlight: Harpal Sall

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Meet Harpal Sall, a medical laboratory technologist from the Virology Department at the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), who successfully diverted a proportion of dry ice packaging from landfill by developing a system, in partnership with colleagues and the supplier, to repurpose the bags for future use!

First off, what inspired you to take action?

“Once a week, the Virology Lab sends specimens to the National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg. In order for the specimens to survive the two-day trip, dry ice is used to keep them refrigerated. Praxair is the supplier of our dry ice, which comes packaged in a shiny, white burlap sack. Once the dry ice is sent off, the burlap sack becomes garbage if no alternative use is found. My coworkers and I felt bad about the waste we were producing and wanted to create a longer term solution so the bags didn’t go in the garbage.”

What steps did you take to initiate the change?

“First off, I went to my team lead to discuss the idea, which they supported. I then contacted Praxair to ask them if they could take the bags back for repurposing. They agreed, and, from there, I worked closely with virology staff and shipping and receiving staff to develop a system where the driver could pick up bags collected whenever they delivered a shipment. We set up a collection bin in the shipment area and educated staff members about drying and folding up the bags once the dry ice had been removed.”

How did you ensure success of the project?

“I understand that change can be difficult, so I made sure that all parties involved knew exactly what to do. I also made sure that shipping and receiving staff knew what we were doing and why, because we needed to use space in their area to make this project work. Sometimes that meant educating individuals and speaking to them on a personal level so that they felt good with the change in their work environment.

“I also sent out a memo to Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) certified staff informing them that the dry-ice bags would now be returned to Praxair. The memo included instructions for staff on what to do with the bags and where the container for pick-up would be located. I also made an effort to chat with staff face to face about the new process in order to address any issues with the change.”

What recommendations would you give to others who want to start their own change project?

“Just ask! Start the process and you may be pleasantly surprised as to how easy it really is.”

Harpal is a Green+Leader: a staff volunteer who helps create healthy workplaces for a healthy planet. The Energy and Environmental Sustainability team within the Lower Mainland Facilities Management department is working with Green+Leaders and the wider community to move beyond recycling, adopting a reduce and reuse approach to waste management in health care.