Wakefield Hospital Adopts Innovative Medicine Disposal Method

Published: 18 Dec 2017

Wakefield Hospital is helping clean up New Zealand’s waterways by adapting a common patient care product to dispose of waste liquid medications.

It is common practice in many New Zealand hospitals and pharmacies to dispose of waste liquid medicines down the sink, contaminating waterways and risking aquatic life and human health.

However, Wakefield Hospital is now using a gel-based powder - a patient care product - to absorb the waste liquid medicine, turning it into solid matter that can be disposed of safely in landfills.

Dr Richard Grenfell, director of Acurity Health Group, which operates Wakefield Hospital, said:

“We are committed to doing our part for the environment and the health of future generations by no longer polluting our waterways with liquid drugs, in turn protecting aquatic life.

“This method is classed as the safest, most environmental friendly method of disposal. As far as we know, Wakefield Hospital is the first in NewZealand, Europe or the United Kingdom using this particular product in this way. For us, this is one way we can improve our environmental footprint.

“A positive step for the future would be to see all hospitals and pharmacies throughout New Zealand take on this method of drug disposal, making a significant contribution to cleaning up our waterways. Healthier rivers, mean healthier people.”

The gel is typically used to clean up bodily fluids, however the disposal method was adopted by the hospital following research by one of Wakefield’s staff nurses.

Once absorbed in the gel, the waste goes to Porirua landfill’s Inter Waste facility where it is steam sterilised, rendered inert, and then buried in the sanitary landfill. Liquids generated during decomposition are captured at the bottom of the landfill, discharged to sewer and eventually end up at a sewage treatment plant before the treated water is discharged to sea.

The project was recognised at the Acurity Quality Awards in October and is now being considered for use across all Acurity Health Group hospitals.