Reduce plastics and recycle 

22 July 2019

This month marks Plastic Free July, a global movement encouraging millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution.

Plastic free July is run by the Plastic Free Foundation whose vision is to see a world a world without plastic waste. So now is a timely reminder to think about how your practice can increase environment sustainability by using fewer plastic products and recycling more. 

In 2016, the College (with help from Dr Rebecca Randerson) produced the Greening General Practice guide: a toolkit for sustainable practice, off the back of its climate change position statement

Dr Richard Medlicott, College Medical Director (pictured left) says the Greening General Practice guide was developed to help GPs, nurses and practice managers make environmentally responsible changes where possible in the day-to-day running of their practice. 

“It was also designed so practices could make these changes as easy as possible.” 

Recycling is one step practices can take, but purchasing fewer products and choosing those with less packaging is also a great way to reduce plastic and other waste.

The Greening General Practice guide makes a suggestion to buy quality products that will last longer and that can be repaired - also to be mindful of waste reduction in every step of the medical process.

New Zealanders send around 2.56 million tones of solid rubbish each year to landfills, much of this is not rubbish, but resources that can be recycled. Recycling items into new resources is a great way for practices to reduce plastic waste – it reduces pollution and saves money.

Accessing recycling typically happens via your local council. Some provide free business recycling (for example, cardboard collection), whereas commercial recycling providers will usually provide collection bins and will collect recycling at the same time as general waste. Make sure you get in touch with your local council to find out the best solution for your practice. 

If your practice is new to recycling or wants to up its game, the Greening General Practice guide lists some suggestion to get your staff motivated: 

  • Give regular positive verbal feedback, especially to reluctant staff members.
  • Rubbish audits are a useful tool for keeping up momentum. Keep an eye out for inappropriate waste in the wrong bin, for example plastics and fruit in the general waste bin can be a clue that a friendly reminder is necessary.
  • If your practice has a website or newsletter, include updates on the practice’s recycling efforts and use the feedback to motivate staff and patients.
  • If your practice has an interesting way to reduce plastic recycling, email communications@rnzcgp.org.nz and we’ll share it below so other practices can follow in your footsteps.