Our People Sustainability

Staff-led initiative diverts waste from the Lab at St. Paul’s Hospital

When Providence supported a funding opportunity for staff environmental sustainability projects, the Transfusion Medicine Laboratory at St. Paul’s Hospital suggested a glove recycling pilot program using the TerraCycle Zero Waste Box program.

Traditional hospital recycling programs do not accept nitrile and latex gloves, which means this high-volume item usually ends up in landfill where it takes decades to break down.

Jodi Shad, Medical Laboratory Technologist and Green+Leader, identified an opportunity to reduce glove waste in the lab and took action.

Gloves get new life as rubber flooring

“A colleague mentioned the campaign through TerraCycle, and in my role as a Green+Leader I applied for a grant through the program to cover the costs, and I received the grant to fund the pilot program,” says Jodi.

The Transfusion Medicine Laboratory was a perfect pilot location for this program because the majority of gloves are not exposed to hazardous or biomedical material and are therefore eligible for recycling. The lab is also almost entirely separate from adjacent labs, making the Zero Waste Box secure from potential cross contamination by staff working in other labs. The program is simple to run, requiring only a budget and a system of accountability to bring the full Zero Waste Box to the loading dock for pickup.

Gloves collected through the program are aggregated at a TerraCycle sorting facility and then sent for processing, where they are pelletized and moulded into new plastic products. Most recycled gloves are used in construction as insulation, or as rubber flooring in gyms and community centres.

Green+Leaders making a difference across the region

Jodi is just one of 24 Green+Leaders at Providence making a difference in our health care system. The Green+Leaders program is a network of health-care staff volunteers across the Lower Mainland health organizations, who are engaged in advancing sustainability practices within the health system. Green+Leaders are change agents who encourage environmentally sustainable behaviour, improve existing processes, and help to create an overall culture of environmental health and wellness inside and outside of the workplace.

“I was interested in what I could do at work in regards to green actions,” says Jodi. “I know that every little bit counts so actions we have at work everyday can have noticeable lasting effects. The Green+Leaders program is a great resource – they can help you get started for any specific projects you are interested in pursuing, as well as offer initiatives for those who want to do something but don’t know where to start.”

Thanks to Jodi’s action, approximately 7,140 nitrile and latex gloves were recycled through the pilot program from March to September 2020.

“All the users within our department love it’, says Jodi. “Since we use gloves all day it’s somewhat comforting to know that recycling the gloves takes a little waste out of the landfill stream. Small actions and small changes matter.”

To learn more about what health organizations are doing in BC to advance sustainability, visit the GreenCare website