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A day in the life of a Sustainability and Waste Manager

Sarah Medhurst has been working as the Sustainability & Waste Manager for 9 years. Sarah works independently on sustainability and waste but has a team who overlook compliance audits, information governance and quality. She explains what her role entails and what it means for QE Facilities and Gateshead Health.

“ A typical day can vary so much whether it's a typical day can vary so much whether it’s auditing wards and departments or even contractors on waste segregations and management, managing day to day contracts, answering queries on waste, sustainability or home collections, working and engaging with departments to look for sustainable solutions to issues and implementing them, researching new technologies or practices to help reduce our carbon footprint, monitoring progress against the Green Plan and collaborating with other Trusts or organisations to look at wider issues and solutions.

I really enjoy the variety of the role and never knowing what each day may lead to as it’s such an expansive area. I also enjoy working with people and departments who are keen to reduce their environmental impact and share the same ethos working on ideas and solutions. Collaborative working is key to both areas of my job especially if the Trust is to meet the required target of ‘net zero’ as it can’t be done alone.

One thing I think is important to understand about my role is, even though I don’t work in a clinical facing role, the work on sustainability and reducing our emissions is key in prevention of ill health and can have a significant impact on reducing admissions to hospital and ease pressure on frontline services.

One example of this is the statistic that the North East has more attributable deaths to air pollution per 100,000 people than London, despite London having considerably worse pollution due to health inequalities in the region. Last year 13% of the ICS carbon footprint came from travel which in comparison building energy accounted for 14% and waste and water combined just 1%. It is key that as a Trust and region we tackle air quality as much as we do other areas to improve the health of our communities and reduce health inequalities; sustainability and health are intrinsically linked.”

We asked Sarah is there a particular piece of work you’re most proud of, or a project that you’d like people to know about?

“In 2020 we won a Green Apple Award for our progress in reducing our carbon emissions finally collecting the award in London last year. Other projects I’m proud of is the changeover to reusable sharps bins as this has significantly reduced our waste from this waste stream, however next on my list is improving reuse and reducing waste.

I also can’t forget the clinical waste challenges faced in 2018/19 and how collectively with the porters we overcame this to ensure that day to day services within the hospital were not impacted and could continue as normal over a busy winter period.”

Our final question to Sarah was, what would you say to someone considering a career in your role?

“Go for it! It’s an ever growing role as the need to reduce our environmental impact becomes greater, there are so many areas to cover or specialise in from energy, travel, sustainable procurement, green spaces and sustainable care.”


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