Patient Plastic Bottle Collection

Published 4 August 2021. Last updated 4 August 2021.

Hospitals have a significant amount of patient plastic bottle waste. South Western Sydney Local Health District and HealthShare NSW started a trial of patient plastic bottle collection in January 2020 at Camden Hospital.


  • Reduce plastic waste
  • Improve hospital sustainability
  • Reduce environmental impact of plastic production and disposal
  • Fund raising
  • Reduce waste costs.


  • Reduces rubbish going to landfill
  • Encourages waste separation
  • Generates money.


The NSW Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) was implemented in December 2017 as a way to minimise littering. It quickly gained popularity as means of earning money. There were some initial problems as patient plastic bottles (1-3 per day) were being collected by staff for personal gain. While these were a small minority of people, it did result in the issue of patient plastic bottle collection being escalated to the Executive Leadership team in June 2019. The issue has become less about appropriate recycling and collection of the deposit then removing items that were causing a staff problem and creating hazards.

Interestingly, collection of personal tea room personal CDS bottle and cans does not seem to have the same issue. The small amount of money (by comparison) raised is either used for personal use, but also collected for various charities, for the Christmas party or for ward specific items.

The tea room personal use containers can be added to the patient plastic bottle CDS scheme, and we are seeing cans and soft drink bottles added.


  • Approval from District Infection Control to collect patient plastic bottles for collection and recycling. They are already collected for disposal in general waste but this was a required formality.
  • There was limited floor space for bins. A previous trial with HealthShare NSW for patient plastic bottles (that did not go ahead) had purchased green linen bags stamped with ‘plastic bottles’. These were strung on hooks throughout the hospital. Each bag holds about 40 bottles or cans.
  • Collection by janitorial services into a separate 1100l wheeled and lockable bins for collection by recycler. Four 1100l bins were delivered to reduce pick up trips and transport costs as they had space for more bins.
  • The recycler collects CDS and splits evenly with the hospital.
  • Money goes to the Camden Hospital Auxiliary volunteer group. This ensures a very visible incentive to keep collecting bottles in house rather than the money to disappear into general revenue.
  • The bags are washed at the in house laundry as required.
  • Trial implemented at Camden Hospital to collect and recycle patient plastic bottles. Running for six months successfully. First cheque received from recycler for Auxiliary

Next steps

  • Rollout to Fairfield Hospital with other 250 bags available.
  • Order more bags and roll out at Bankstown.
  • Liverpool and Campbelltown Hospital may have to wait as they are doing major developments affecting the dock area. The size of them also means 1100l bins are too small and we might need to go to the 10,000l bins with a bin lifter, increased costs but reduced labour.


Implementation – The project is ready for implementation or is currently being implemented, piloted or tested.


  • December 2017 – plastic deposit scheme started.
  • June 2018 – South Western Sydney Infection Control Advisory Committee advised the hospital sustainability manager that collection and recycling of patient water bottles had been approved.
  • Delays as waste contracts changed and a HealthShare NSW trial was going to go ahead and later cancelled.
  • June 2019 – green linen bags for bottles arrived for Camden Hospital.
  • Dec 2019 – started roll out at Camden Hospitals with four lidded, lockable skips for plastic bottle only, with bulky bags.

Implementation sites

Camden, Bowral and Fairfield Hospitals


Veolia and a recycling contractor, HealthShare NSW who had the bags printed.


The Camden project started mid-December 2019 and the first set of four of 1100 bins were picked up in March. Numbers a bit low as we have just started. Should be at least two bottles per patient but currently at 0.7. First cheque received from recycler for $161.50, to Camden Hospital Auxiliary.

 Number of bottlesRefund based on split CDS with recycler = 5c/bottleWaste saving3 month total
per 1100L bin800$40$6$46/bin
4 bins for 3 months3230$161$24$185
$ per year12,920$644$96$740

Lessons learnt

  • The big green linen bags were a winner, as there is limited room for bins.
  • Having a dedicated champion, in this case Brian Lane, Nurse Unit Manager, who organised the maintenance request for hooks, and talked to it all through the hospital, and Tracy Lemmon, General Services Officer, who cheerfully collects them.
  • Use bulky bins in the skips bins for ease of collection.


Wendy Hird
Sustainability Manager
South Western Sydney Local Health District
Ph. 02 8738 6971


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