In 2020, our total amount of waste collected through our own waste management was 7,485 tons, 780 tons less than in the previous year.
The volume of waste reflected the decrease in activities and increase in remote work due to the coronavirus pandemic, although the use of personal protection equipment increased. The decrease in mixed waste in particular was due to our increased efficiency in sorting, which meant that more of the waste produced was being reused.
Significantly less mixed waste, biowaste and wastepaper
There was 470 tons less of community waste, with a significant reduction noted in mixed waste, biowaste and wastepaper.
Our target for mixed waste was to reduce its volume to less than 1.20 kg per patient visit. We promoted this target through campaigns and through enhanced plastic recycling. In August, we introduced mixed waste invoicing at HUS, based on the number of mixed waste bags generated by operating units. Mixed waste management was previously included as a fixed-rate expense in internal facility rents at HUS; this was eliminated and replaced with quantity-based invoicing. The purpose of this change was to encourage units to reduce the volume of mixed waste and to increase sorting and recycling.
By the end of the year, we had reduced mixed waste to 1.17 kg per patient visit. Overall, the volume of mixed waste decreased by 150 tons, down 4.3% on the previous year.
In biowaste, we achieved a reduction of 270 tons or nearly 18% on the previous year. The reduction is explained by several factors. One of the most important was the introduction of a new biowaste collection system at Meilahti in spring 2020; this reduced the water content of biowaste by about one third. The biowaste produced by the catering center at Meilahti is delivered to biogas production. Other factors affecting the volume of biowaste included the operational changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic and our campaign to reduce food waste.
The volume of wastepaper decreased by 34 tons on the previous year. This figure has been on a downward trend for several years, due to increasing adoption of electronic materials and e-transactions. There was a reduction of 20 tons in confidential paper and sticker waste.
Majority of overall waste is community waste
Out of the total volume of waste produced, community waste (mixed waste and separately collected recyclable waste) accounted for about 80%. About 6% was waste specific to health care, 5% was hazardous waste and 9% was waste deriving from construction and property management.
The percentage of community waste sorted and recovered was 44.2%. This was 1.6% less than in 2019, because the volume of recoverable waste decreased by nearly 11% due to, among other things, a decrease in activities due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Our overall waste volume was also reduced by the coronavirus pandemic, which led for instance to the volume of paperboard and cardboard packagings and of waste specific to health care to decrease by 5% after several years of continued growth.
The volume of recovered metal varies greatly from one year to the next; in 2020, it was 14 tons more than in 2019.
Volume of collected plastic continued to grow
We further enhanced our collection of plastic waste, and its volume increased by more than one third on 2019. In 2020, we collected and sorted more than 68 tons of plastic for recovery.
The majority of plastic collected at HUS properties is plastic food packaging. We have also expanded the collection of hospital plastics 02 and 05 (hard polyethene and polypropylene) and hospital plastic 04 (soft polyethene).
In 2020, we introduced plastic collection in the kitchens at Hyvinkää, Kellokoski and Raseborg Hospitals and at the Ohkola and Ulfåsa properties. The surgical ward at Meilahti also began to collect PET 01 packaging plastic. The volume of plastic collected increased in particular in the Hyvinkää hospital district and at HUS Logistics, where plastic film from packagings is collected separately.
Waste management system is a significant help in monitoring waste volumes
Thanks to the HUS monitoring and billing system for special waste, HUSKEY, the volume and cost of health care waste and confidential paper waste and the volume of plastic waste can be analyzed by type of waste and by source. Introduced in 2016, the system is continuously being developed and expanded. In February 2020, we introduced an order and monitoring procedure for pharmaceutical waste on the Meilahti hospital campus using HUSKEY.
Since 2015, our waste volumes have decreased significantly, or at the least the growth of the volume of waste has levelled off relative to the growth in activities. For instance, over the past five years the volumes of paper waste, confidential paper waste and biowaste have decreased by 136%, 30% and 16%, respectively. We have seen a 74% reduction in electrical and electronic waste and a 32% reduction in hospital glass waste.
The growth of HUS operations is also evident in the increase of volumes of waste closely related to our sector. The largest growth compared to 2015 has been recorded in solvent waters (+86%), chemical waste (+74%), metal (+40%), confidential, liquid and ethical biological waste (+12%), cytostatic waste (+24%), pharmaceutical waste (+14%) and cardboard and paperboard (+11%).
Waste management costs remained unchanged from the previous year
In 2020, waste management costs totaled EUR 7.8 million, a reduction of about 0.5% on the previous year. Our costs per patient visit increased on the previous year but remained under the level of 2018.
Over a longer period, the average cost per 1 kg of waste has increased from EUR 0.86 in 2015 to EUR 1.04 in 2020. Since 2015, our overall waste management costs have grown in tandem with our operations, by a total of 18%. Waste management costs include: waste management fees paid to waste collectors for properties managed by HUS; waste transport costs; HUS Logistics personnel costs for waste transport within hospital buildings; and HUS Asvia personnel costs for waste management duties. Additionally, the expenses include the waste disposal costs for confidential waste, waste specific to health care, and dangerous waste accrued by our units operating in leased facilities.