Employee-led recycling initiatives in Te Tai Tokerau Northland

Awanui Labs Recycling in Northland

Northland-based Medical Laboratory Scientist and Quality Co-ordinator Lorraine Jenkins is passionate about sustainability. An ocean swimmer and volunteer with the Sea Cleaners NZ environmental group, Lorraine started a recycling and waste reduction initiative at our Northland laboratory.

Lorraine began her initiative after moving from the Microbiology Department into the Corelab. She saw an opportunity to reduce the plastic containers and plastic waste from the chemistry analysers and better disposal and reuse of paper and packaging.

“Paper packaging is biodegradable, and we have been disposing it through general waste for some time. Not only does it keep unnecessary waste out of landfill, but it’ll save on waste costs from less regular general waste disposal.

“We contacted Waste Management NZ who advised on what products could be recycled and what wasn’t suitable. Another issue had been the polystyrene boxes, one of the worst offenders for the environment, and chill packs coming from companies which supply the chemistry reagents.

“After contacting one of our suppliers, Roche Diagnostics, we learned they had teamed up with DHL to start delivering reagents in cardboard boxes with a wool lining to keep the reagents cool. These ‘wool shippers’ enable us to return the wool liners and boxes through the courier, so they could be reused and, as a result, removing the polystyrene boxes. This has made a huge difference.”

Lorraine says her work has meant the laboratory now recycles all cardboard boxes, aluminium, tin, glass, numbers 1, 2, 5 plastic and paper which includes magazines, newspapers and journals. She says packing inserts from inside the reagent boxes, soft clear plastic, bubble wrap and pallet wrap used to cover boxes is also recycled.  Even the boxes to hold the recycling are reused packaging.

By recycling batteries and dropping off old printers, keyboards, and cables with Noel Leeming and Tech Collect NZ’s free e-waste collection service, we’ve prevented a lot of unwanted waste and chemicals at the landfill.

“The lab is also registered for the free toner recycling programme with Ricoh to recycle our used toner cartridges and waste toner containers and at Christmas last year, we supported KanTabs by saving all pull -caps off drinks and wine bottle tops in the tearoom for Kidney Kids NZ.”

Having seen the success of her sustainability efforts, Lorraine is continuing her work to reduce waste and improve the environmental impact for Awanui.

“I am passionate about what I am doing and the opportunity to be a sustainability representative for Northland Pathology. However, this is definitely a team effort with all our staff contributing to our sustainability drive. 

“It is about taking the opportunity to learn more about sustainability. Collecting and sharing recycling ideas within the group can only be beneficial, and if each laboratory supports their recycling initiatives, it will make a difference and we’ll continue to have a great impact on the environment for sustainable and cleaner Aotearoa New Zealand.”

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