Students research sustainable waste management in medical centre

2021-02-08 Lüneburg/Lauenburg. Three Master's students at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg have looked into the question of how sustainable waste management can be realised in a medical centre. In a pilot project with the Lauenburg Medical Centre, they developed a concept for improved waste separation and avoidance as well as suggestions for product substitutions. The results are impressive: The waste volume could be reduced by more than 30 per cent and the sorting of waste into the individual waste fractions has improved significantly.

The idea for the project came from Dr. Holger Matthiesen from the Lauenburg Medical Centre. He approached Leuphana with a request for cooperation. His goal: the waste management of the Lauenburg Medical Centre was to be sustainably transformed through a holistic consideration of ecological, economic and social factors. The three students Henrike Wedekind, Julia Adelt and Ronja Wollnik took on the task of improving the waste situation in practice and making it more environmentally friendly in the summer semester 2020 as part of the seminar "Transdisciplinary Research Project". They were scientifically accompanied by Professors Henning Friege and Daniel Pleissner.

First, the students examined the existing waste infrastructure in the practice, which was already set up in such a way that a separation of waste could be realised in almost all practice rooms. In order to get an overview of the amount and type of waste generated in the daily practice routine, they then analysed all the waste collected during a week.

In regular meetings with Dr Matthiesen and his practice team, the students then developed strategies for improved waste separation and avoidance and for the use of more environmentally friendly products. In addition to an introduction to proper waste separation, they compiled corresponding overview lists for the practice team, developed avoidance strategies for individual paper waste and made suggestions for sustainable alternatives to office materials and medical products.

In December last year, the waste of an average working week was collected again and compared with the analysis results of the first collection. This showed that the amount of waste in the medical centre could already be reduced by more than 30 percent with the help of the measures taken. In addition, a clearly improved sorting of waste into the individual waste fractions is noticeable. The project team therefore draws a positive conclusion: "With these steps and the introduction of a variety of ecological product alternatives, the waste management of the medical centre could be successfully made more sustainable."

The students can imagine that other medical practices and facilities in the medical sector would also benefit from in-depth advice on making waste management more sustainable. Interested parties are welcome to contact Henrike Wedekind:

Background information:
The Master's course "Transdisciplinary Research Project" at Leuphana University of Lüneburg gives students of the Master's programme in Sustainability Science the opportunity to gain practical experience and apply theories of sustainable change in local contexts in cooperation with actors in Lüneburg and the surrounding area.