Zero waste to landfill by 2030

Posted on 12 April 2023

Minimising our impact on the environment is one of the Mediclinic Group’s strategic goals.

Preserving the health of the planet is essential to help our clients lead healthier lives, reduce costs and risks, and protect the wellbeing of our communities. Mediclinic supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and aims to minimise its impact on the environment.

Our approach to managing resources responsibly and efficiently contributes to decreasing our material footprint and reducing waste generation. We’re transparent about our practices and the steps we’ve taken to improve, by publishing our environmental data annually. We’re making progress in reaching our target of having zero waste to landfill by 2030.

One challenge we face is that we generate two very different waste streams that cannot be mixed, namely:

  • healthcare risk waste (HCRW, also known as medical waste)
  • healthcare general waste (HCGW, also known as domestic or municipal waste).

Healthcare risk waste (HCRW) management

HCRW is classified as hazardous waste and must be treated and safely disposed of.

Plastic is widely used in the medical industry because of its exceptional barrier and lightweight properties, low cost, durability, transparency and compatibility with other materials. It is unlikely that anything will replace plastic in the field of medicine soon. Unfortunately, some of these plastics are not currently recyclable in South Africa or they might be classified as HCRW.

The good news is we have a dedicated team investigating new opportunities to divert waste from landfill. Technology for the recovery of waste as a resource is moving fast. This includes anaerobic digestion and pyrolysis, which will be able to produce heat and power.

As we move forwards, we are focusing our HCRW efforts on:

  • allocating financial and technological resources
  • enabling sustainable waste management programmes through recycling and reusing biomedical materials.

Healthcare general waste (HCGW)

HCGW has also presented challenges, but we are on track with moving from a linear to a circular economy. A circular economy is one in which waste materials are reused or recycled into a new product to conserve resources and prevent waste from ending up in limited landfill space. Circular economy contributes to all three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, environmental, and social.

Mediclinic is focusing our operations on waste management, and we’ve increased the amount of waste that is recycled or recyclable for four reasons:

  • changes in the availability of waste landfill sites
  • continued increase in the cost of such sites
  • the associated greenhouse gas emissions of landfill sites (scope 3 emissions)
  • our bid to reach the newly set zero waste to landfill by 2030 Group target.

We expect that this will reduce our emissions associated with sending waste to landfill sites.

Mediclinic has also taken out the African continent’s first sustainability-linked loan. The R7.9m five-year sustainability-linked loan was arranged by Rand Merchant Bank. With this landmark deal, Mediclinic has saved itself at least 21 basis points in the cost of funding and set four key performance indicators (KPIs) – three with environmental targets and one focused on patient satisfaction. One of the four KPIs Mediclinic has chosen for this sustainability-linked loan focuses on diverting waste away from landfill.

From April 2023, all our Mediclinic facilities in South Africa, including Corporate Office, will have an on-site sorting area managed by a waste management company. Basic sorting will start inside the facility where material will be sorted into different recycling streams in the waste sorting centre.. Food waste will also be diverted away from landfill.  To ensure continual improvement and behaviour change we will:

  • run awareness campaigns, including competitions to motivate staff
  • identify waste champions for each area
  • place clearly marked bins for correct waste segregation at the point of generation
  • collect accurate waste data for monitoring and evaluation
  • ensure continuous communication and daily huddles (quick employee meetings)
  • share best practices between hospitals.

Our successes in waste management so far…

  • Implemented a data management system for the uniform capturing and monitoring of environmental data.
  • Used an environmental management system at 43 of our hospitals to achieve the most qualitative targets to reduce waste and increase recycling.
  • Run recycling projects.
  • Taken steps to reduce single-use plastics.

We have also achieved qualitative targets to reduce waste and increase recycling, including creating uniform disposal concepts, optimising waste management with new suppliers through circular economies, changing behaviour and conducting waste audits at facilities with high HCGW generation.

Every Mediclinic employee is encouraged to be accountable, as human behaviour plays a critical role in a successful waste management programme.

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