PHSA Recycling Champion
Recycling Champion: Adrian White
Health Organization: PHSA
Facility: BC Cancer Agency - Fraser Valley Centre
Position: Planning Resource Therapist
Date Interviewed: via email July 4th, 2017
Adrian is a Recycling Champion in the Radiotherapy Department. During his interview, he shared some of the ways he’s successfully working with colleagues to reduce the waste footprint of patient care.
Q. What initiated your involvement as a recycling champion?
When I first moved to the Fraser Valley Centre in 2013 I rapidly became aware of the amount of plastic patient garment bags that were used in our radiotherapy department. Patients were provided with a plastic bag at both their planning CT (Computed Tomography) appointment, as well as, their first radiotherapy appointment. Our CT Simulation sees approximately 10 patients per day. When it dawned upon me that the CTSIM alone contributed up to 50 plastic bags a week to landfill I felt compelled to explore a more environmentally friendly option. My exploration led me to Ben Lee, who is not only one of our department’s Clinical Educators, but also a Green+ Leader. Momentum built up from there.
Q. What do you enjoy the most about being a recycling champion?
I get the most satisfaction when I see the real world impact that our waste reduction efforts achieve. Culture change is a very challenging task. People need to understand and agree that the change you are requesting of them is a better alternative than maintaining the status quo. I quite enjoy educating and working with my colleagues when they have questions about how our department can reduce its environmental impact while still maintaining excellent quality patient care. I think that educating both staff and patients about our facility’s waste reduction goals and how they can be a part of it is the most important aspect of being a recycling champion.
Q. How is recycling related to health care?
I believe that our health is intrinsically connected to our environment. Human beings thrive in an environment that provides them with clean air, land, water, and nutrients. When people are able to live active stress-free lives with access to nature, they are healthier and require less medical attention and support. I think that waste reduction, particularly recycling, is one of the main ways in which individuals can directly impact the quality of their environment. By keeping waste out of our landfills and oceans, individuals can help sustain the natural beauty that we are so fortunate to live in on the west coast.
Q. What do you consider to be your successes thus far?
During my first year as recycling champion I’ve had two successes with regards to waste reduction in the radiotherapy department. First, a program that has eliminated soft plastic garment bags from our department. After much investigation into alternatives for patient garments, I started a program where patients are provided with a paper bag. The major difference is that these paper bags, as long as they aren’t contaminated, are recyclable in the mixed paper bin. Additionally, because the main goal is to reduce waste overall, we educate patients at their first appointment to bring their own reusable cloth bag for future appointments.
Second, with the assistance of my colleague and fellow Green+ Leader Sarah Kristensen, I started a plastics recycling program for our thermoplastic patient accessories. Many radiotherapy patients require custom immobilization devices that are moulded and formed from thermoplastic. The majority of cancer treatment centres in Canada dispose of these single-patient use items in the garbage (this is a specialty item that is not recyclable in the mixed container recycling program). After a comprehensive evaluation of our thermoplastic and needs by a private contractor, a process was developed for our department to divert thermoplastic out of the waste stream. In its first six months the program has successfully recycled over 150kg of plastic! The success of this initiative has caught the attention of other cancer treatment centres in British Columbia, as well as across Canada, with staff investigating solutions to their thermoplastic recycling challenges.