Dr Alistair Walpole
27 April 2021
News Category: 

A team of passionate sustainability champions have changed the way the RMH thinks of Bluey – not only an adorable dog, but a crucial piece of equipment contributing to unnecessary waste.

Hospitals contribute substantially to landfills. In Australia, each hospital bed produces 3.3 kilograms of waste per day, with hospital CO2 emissions accounting for 7% of national emissions in Australia.

It has become one of the RMH’s strategic goals to contribute to Victoria’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. To help us achieve this, we have an award-winning sustainability team, and a number of sustainability champions in each department. One of these champions, the Perioperative Sustainability Group, recently held Operation Clean Up Day on 22 April to reduce waste in our operating theatres.

Consisting of the RMH’s dutiful perioperative and anaesethics teams, the group wanted this year's focus to be on reducing the use of Blueys in the operating theatre.

A ‘Bluey’ is made of two plastic layers and an

Alternatives to Blueys poster
Alternatives to Blueys - a poster that is now displayed on all anaesthesia trolleys

absorbent cotton layer. While they serve an important purpose during surgery, they often contribute to significant air, water and soil pollution. Medical sustainability group TRA2SH discovered that up to 12 countries are involved in the production of a Bluey, and estimates breakdown in landfill exceeds 100 years. Blueys are also used for many other purposes other than to prevent dermatitis and pressure sores, contributing to preventable waste.

While Blueys are still crucial to the RMH’s surgical operations, the Perioperative Sustainability Group have worked with TRA2SH to source safe alternatives that can break down faster. They used Operation Clean Up Day to laminate posters of safe alternatives to Blueys, and placed them on all anaesthetics trolleys. Anaesthetist Dr Alistair Walpole holds up a laminated “Alternatives to Blueys” poster in the article’s featured picture.

While reducing Bluey use is a way the RMH Perioperative Sustainability Group is contributing to the Hospital’s goal of reducing waste, it’s not the only one. The department is involved in many other sustainability projects, including waste segregation, recycling and refusing. They’re currently working on a number of new initiatives, including improved recycling practices and reusable drug trays.