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Waste management for healthier communities and environment

Technologies such as strategic recycling or biodigestion allow us to process waste and obtain different products, such as gas. Their implementation helps reduce the environmental impact of health care facilities.  

 

Plastics for recycling - Nepal 2017. Credits: Ruth Stringer

 Plastics for recycling – Nepal 2017. Photo credits: Ruth Stringer

October 7, 2019 was World Habitat Day, and this year’s theme was frontier technologies as an innovative tool to transform waste to wealth. Health Care Without Harm is currently working with hospitals in Latin America, South and South East Asia, and Africa to deploy innovative technologies and practices to help them reduce their waste and treat it sustainably.

Several of the countries where Health Care Without Harm works don’t have fully functioning waste management systems, so it’s not uncommon for infectious or hazardous waste from the hospitals to end up on the streets awaiting collection, to be burned in the open, or to be sent to open dumpsites.


Technologies such as strategic recycling or biodigestion allow us to process waste and obtain different products, such as gas. Their implementation helps reduce the environmental impact of health care facilities.


This is often the situation in Nepal, where HCWH has been working with strategic partners as Health Care Foundation Nepal (HECAF) for over 10 years. Informal recyclers would even come to the hospitals looking for plastics and other waste materials to sell.

Instead, partner hospitals now carefully segregate the waste so that it can be treated and disposed of appropriately, which includes using autoclaves to steam disinfect infectious materials and biodigestion for organic materials.

Over the years, recyclers have come to realize the value of the wastes from these hospitals, and the range of materials that can recycled has increased to include paper, glass, metals and several types of plastics. Even syringes, which have their needles and tips cut off at the point of use, can be processed into different products by recyclers.

Mahesh Nakarmi, Director of the Health Care Waste Project at HECAF, Health Care Without Harm partner in Nepal, says this is particularly important. “In the past we have found used syringes that have been repackaged and sold again to unknowing customers. Cutting the syringes means that they can’t be used again and once they are disinfected their high quality plastic is very attractive to recyclers”.

Biodigestors. Credit: Ruth Stringer.

Biodigestors. Credit: Ruth Stringer.

Biodigestion is also revolutionizing the way hospitals in Nepal handle their waste. Biodegradable waste including food scraps, and even placentas or tissues from operations used to be mixed with general waste, attracting vermin that could spread disease. Now biodigesters turn all this into biogas which can be used for cooking or water heating, reducing fossil fuel use and saving money.

Recycling and biodigestion both reduce the costs of waste disposal, says Ruth Stringer, International Science and Policy Coordinator at Health Care Without Harm Global, and one of the organisation’s waste experts. Not only is there less waste that needs to be disposed of, but good quality plastics can be worth over 30 US cents per kilo and the biogas generated from organic waste can be worth two cents for every kilo of waste treated. Even so, says Stringer, that’s not the biggest benefit.

“Preventing air pollution from incineration, keeping infectious materials out of the general waste stream and maximising recycling all make our cities cleaner, more pleasant to live in, help prevent climate change and reduce the threat to worker and public health from improperly treated healthcare waste. The value of that is incalculable”, she adds.

October 10, 2019

Global

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‘Smartphone Slouching’ More Serious Than It Sounds

The national survey, published Oct. 9, asked respondents their level of concern about eye strain, carpal tunnel and other potential health consequences of mobile device use. Only 47% said they were concerned about poor posture and how it affected their health.

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Proving the “Experts” Wrong…Again

Today, I did what the “experts” said was
“impossible.” 

Nine years ago, a chiropractor ruptured one of the discs in my spine.  Emergency
surgery was required to remove the 2-inch piece of cartilage that was resting
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Intuitive Eating: 8 Evidence-Based Health Benefits

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Health care commits to act on climate and clean air at UN Climate Action Summit

At a World Health Organization pre-meeting on Sept. 22 ahead of the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit in New York, Health Care Without Harm shared findings from its recent report on health care’s climate footprint and the collective commitment to climate action by hospitals and health systems around the world.

Photo Credit Yassen Tcholakov

Photo credit: Yassen Tcholakov

 The pre-meeting’s theme was “Climate Action for Health: cut emissions, clean our air, save lives.” Dr. Maria Neira (WHO’s director of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health) and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (WHO’s Director-General) underscored how the climate crisis is a health crisis, calling for commitments to reduce air pollution and climate emissions, and to increase financing to address climate and health.

Dr. Arvind Kumar from Lung Care Foundation, a Health Care Without Harm partner in India, delivered a stirring address on the health effects of air pollution throughout all the systems of the human body, and throughout the life course. “If you live in a polluted city, you are a smoker,” he warned, “and this happens with every breath you take from infancy.” Combating the air pollution and climate crises requires urgent multi-sectoral action, including a critical role for health professionals as “motivated motivators” for policy change.

Photo credit: Saskia Heijnen

To highlight the state of philanthropic support for clean air, Jane Burston, Executive Director of the Clean Air Fund, hinted at the official announcement she would go on to make the following day at the main Climate Action Summit: the launch of their U.S. $50 million fund–with plans to raise $100 million–to tackle air pollution, improve health, benefit climate change, and improve children’s development.

Continuing the focus on solutions, Josh Karliner, Health Care Without Harm’s International Director for Program and Strategy, announced a significant growth in the Health Care Climate Challenge on climate mitigation, resilience, and leadership. Launched in 2015 at the Paris COP, the Challenge now has 200 participating health institutions that represent 18,000 hospitals and health centers in 31 countries. Collectively they have committed to reduce their carbon emissions by more than 34 million metric tons—the equivalent of a year of carbon emissions from 9 coal fired power plants, and saving an estimated U.S. $3.2 billion in health costs related to air pollution. These commitments also mean that participants are saving U.S. $394 million through energy efficiency and renewable energy generation.

View/download the infographic at full size

Members of the Health Care Without Harm and Lung Care Foundation teams
in front of the Pollution Pods exhibit at #UNGA74

Full text of Health Care Without Harm’s intervention

Intervention by Josh Karliner, International Director, Program and Strategy, Health Care Without Harm at the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit, “Climate Action for Health: cut emissions, clean our air, save lives” — September 22, 2019

Honorable Ministers, Dr. Neira, esteemed guests:

Two weeks ago, my organization HCWH released the first ever global estimate of health care’s climate footprint at simultaneous events in London and Medellín, Colombia.

We found that health care’s greenhouse gas emissions are equivalent to 4.4 percent of all emissions on the planet. That’s the same as emissions from 514 coal fired power plants. If health care were a country it would be the fifth largest climate polluter in the world.

The report makes a series of recommendations to make the sector climate smart and align it with the Paris Ambition, while meeting global health goals. To align with Paris, the sector needs to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and reach zero emissions by 2050.

Given its mission to protect and promote health, the sector also has a special responsibility to implement the Hippocratic Oath to “first, do no harm” as it relates to its own climate footprint.
Such a transformation of health care is a major undertaking. Health policies and investment must be retooled to support the move toward zero emissions in both developed and developing countries. Individual facilities and health care systems must also take action.

This is where the commitment that I want to announce today comes in. It is a collective commitment by hospitals and health systems around the world called the Health Care Climate Challenge.

We launched the challenge in 2015 at Paris, with 50 institutions from a dozen countries committing to climate mitigation, resilience and leadership.

Today, I am pleased to announce a significant growth in health care’s commitment to the Challenge. There are now 200 participating institutions that represent 18,000 hospitals and health centers in 31 countries. These hospitals and health systems from all around the world are working to reduce their climate footprint. Many are moving quickly toward 100% renewable electricity and even climate neutrality in Scopes 1 and 2.

Participants come from countries as diverse as Brazil and Colombia, South Africa and Morocco, India, China, Nepal and the Philippines; England, Sweden and Germany; the United States and Canada. They are demonstrating to their colleagues and the world that it can be done.

And here is their commitment: collectively, reporting institutions have committed so far to annual emissions reductions of 34 million metric tons every year. Let me put that in context for you. It’s equivalent to reducing emissions from 9 coal fired power plants to zero and replacing them with 7,000 wind turbines. We calculate that the emissions eliminated by these commitments will save $3.2 billion US dollars in health costs related to air pollution. Participating institutions also already report saving nearly $400 million already through energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment.

This collective commitment represents almost 2 percent of all health care emissions in the world. It’s a good start. And, it is not enough. We need to scale this effort up. And we will.

We will return in coming years and report to you engagement from thousands more hospitals and ever greater reductions as the sector moves toward zero emissions.

Thank you very much.

October 3, 2019

Global

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Health Care Climate Challenge: Building Collective Impact

All around the world, at health care facilities large and small, urban and rural, Health Care Climate Challenge participants are leading the transformation to climate-smart health care. By using their innovation, ingenuity, investments and voice, they are reducing their climate footprint, developing low-carbon models of care, adapting to stand resilient to a changing climate and advocating for policies to protect the future health of the planet.

By 2019 Challenge participants had:

  • Collectively reported commitments to reduce their carbon emissions by more than 34 million metric tons—the equivalent of both a year of carbon emissions from 9 coal fired power plants;
  • Saved an estimated U.S. $3.2 billion in health costs related to air pollution; and 
  • Saved U.S. $394 million through energy efficiency and renewable energy generation.

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September 30, 2019

Global

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Climate Challenge reaches new milestones

All around the world, at health care facilities large and small, urban and rural, Health Care Climate Challenge participants are leading the transformation to climate-smart health care. By using their innovation, ingenuity, investments and voice, they are reducing their climate footprint, developing low-carbon models of care, adapting to stand resilient to a changing climate and advocating for policies to protect the future health of the planet.

In September of 2019, the Climate Challenge reached its 200th participant with the signing of the pledge by 3 health care institutions from Europe: CHU Grenoble Alpes, Manchester University NHS Trust, and the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. 

These 200 participating health care institutions come from over 30 countries and represent more than 18,000 hospitals and health centers. Participating institutions are as diverse as they are numerous, ranging from small, rural health services to large urban health systems.

By 2019 Challenge participants had:

  • Collectively reported commitments to reduce their carbon emissions by more than 34 million metric tons—the equivalent of both a year of carbon emissions from 9 coal fired power plants;
  • Saved an estimated U.S. $3.2 billion in health costs related to air pollution; and 
  • Saved U.S. $394 million through energy efficiency and renewable energy generation.

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September 30, 2019

Global

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Avoid what to stay well?

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Is the Impossible Burger a wonderful possibility?

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