N. Rousseau, Children's Health Ireland at Temple Street, Dublin, Ireland


Reducing waste is a strategy to help save the environment and our limited natural resources. According to the National Health Sustainability Office in Ireland, apart from reducing the carbon footprint, recycling also decreases the cost of disposal [1]. Because operating theatres produce more than 30% of all hospital waste and consume more energy than other hospital departments it is important to increase awareness and to encourage recycling waste produced in operating departments [2]. This is the premise for the audit done in Children’s Health Ireland at Temple Street where the aim is continuous education of theatre staff on correct waste segregation to improve recycling.


An anonymous questionnaire, in an extended matching question format, was circulated amongst theatre staff. The questionnaire consisted of seven pictures (A to G) of different waste bins in the department and participants had to match ten items, commonly used in theatre, with the correct bin for disposal. After collecting the surveys two education sessions were held in the department and feedback of the results shared at a departmental education meeting. Posters of correct waste segregation, as per Health Service Executive guidelines, was put up around theatre to encourage correct waste segregation. The same questionnaire was repeated at random amongst theatre staff.


Two sets of sixty participants completed the questionnaire. Participants were not limited to specific professional groups. After the first round the majority of participants correctly identified the bins where needles, sharps, paracetamol and sevoflurane bottles, paper and worn gloves and gowns should be disposed into. The items that had more varied responses included syringes, fluid in syringes, antibiotic vials and worn masks. After the education sessions and posters, the overall results showed better awareness of which bins had to be used for the ten items with the biggest change seen for worn masks where more than 40% participants thought they are recyclable before the education sessions and almost 100% identified the correct bins after education.

Discussion / Conclusion:

The aim of this project is to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and waste management. An international multi-centre survey amongst theatre staff identified that one of the largest barriers to recycling were a lack of knowledge about recyclable materials and handling contaminated materials [2]. This simple questionnaire and poster are based on two principles: ‘clarity’ and ‘relevance’ of instructional practice for adult learning [3]. The posters cater for different learning styles with images for visual learners and can be used as prompts for discussion or debate for auditory learners, therefore curiosity is stimulated and participation encouraged [4]. This simple project is easily reproducible and can be upscaled to involve other hospitals and departments.




  1. Health Service Executive: National Health Sustainability Office. General waste and recycling in healthcare facilities [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2024 Jan 23]. Available from: https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/who/healthbusinessservices/national-health-sustainability-office/waste-prevention/general-waste-and-recycling-in-healthcare-facilities/
  2. Bolten A, Kringos D.S, Spijkerman I.J.B & Sperna Weiland N.H. The carbon footprint of the operating room related to infection prevention measures: a scoping review. Journal of Hospital Infection. 2022 Jul 16; 128: 64 – 73. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhin.2022.07.011
  3. Bryson JD. Engaging adult learners: Philosophy, principles and practices [Internet]. James David Bryson; 2013 [cited 2024 Jan 23]. 47p. Available from: https://www.northerncollege.ca/leid/docs/engagingadultlearners
  4. PrintSafari Blog – Fresh insights on digital printing. 7 Benefits of using posters in education and teaching [Internet]. 2023 Oct 24 [cited 2024 Jan 23]. Available from: https://www.printsafari.com/blog/7-benefits-of-using-posters-in-education-and-teaching/
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