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Medical waste

Maria Koijck

The Groningen artist Maria Koijck and her daughter Eva Glasbeek won a prize in Milan with a film about all the waste that was left after her breast cancer operation. They received the Guiltless plastic Prize in the Italian city from artist Rosanna Orlandi.

The Dutch artist, Maria Koijck displayed the amount of waste created from one surgical procedure: her own breast reconstruction after breast cancer. The image of herself within this waste is truly provocative. The video she created of the making of this picture instantly went viral in 2021.

Below are some examples of some routine surgical procedures and the amount of waste they produce.

However, countries and in particular individuals are looking at ways to reduce medical waste. In the next section we will have a look at a couple of case studies.

Due to its visual nature, waste is often an area that draws people into sustainability. Along with water it in fact only makes up 5% of the overall carbon footprint of the National Health Service in the UK.

What percentage does waste make of the carbon footprint of your national healthcare system?

Whilst its impact may be smaller than other areas of healthcare emissions, getting waste management wrong can be extremely costly to our patients, the planet and the public purse. This was demonstrated in 2019 when the collapse of the waste contractor Healthcare Environmental Services (HES), lead to a national major incident with hazardous and non-hazardous waste piling up at its sites.

The PDF below outlines some of the key UK legislations regarding the management of healthcare waste

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How to Drive Sustainable Healthcare: Educate, Engage, and Empower

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