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Fertilise for research

Wednesday 13 January 2021

It helps grow your plants and now it is helping to grow hope for people diagnosed with cancer and other serious diseases.

Thanks to the efforts of the PA Hospital's (PAH) Sustainability Committee hundreds of kilos of food waste are now being turned into an amazingly cheap and effective fertiliser, with 50 per cent of the profits going towards the PA Research Foundation and the work they do funding vital medical research.

The fertiliser, which is produced by a 550-kilo food dehydrator installed in March and looks like coffee grounds once produced is already being used to spruce up the PAH grounds. A tonne a month is also heading to Help Nurseries who run disability employment programs to help them grow their potted plants.

PAH Sustainability Committee member Noel Matson said the committee had earmarked reducing food waste as a key goal they wanted to achieve, and the purchase of the dehydrator helped maximise their efforts.

PAH Sustainability Committee member, Noel Matson

"We started talking about how we could minimize our food waste into our general waste that ends up going into landfill. We produce around 400 kilos of food waste at the PA every single day and we wanted to work out how we could better utilize that waste," he said.

"We then looked at different types of processes to get rid of the waste and we found the one that we purchased, was the best one that had less odour.

"We could also use 100 per cent of the profit because we didn't have to use any microorganisms or anything to start the process."

Available to be purchased in various sizes, ranging from a 500-gram pack for $2, right up to $12 for 10 kilos, the profits from the fertiliser are split between the Foundation, which funds research in areas including breast cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer and more and the sustainability committee to fund further sustainability initiatives.

Noel said much of the credit for the success of the program has to go to the kitchen staff who separate the food down each day to be dehydrated before it goes to the waste team, adding that the committee has loved seeing the wider hospital community get behind the fertiliser program.

"Once we had the machine in place, we talked with all the staff in the kitchen because we had to change process flow in there, we now have bins on the stripping line that the food waste goes into," he said.

"We've also given a bag to each of them because they're part of the team that's doing it so they can say that this is something they have a big hand in, we wanted them to see what the end result was.

"We're part of what we call a 360 community, which is a group of like-minded people who want to look at how we minimize our food waste. In the hierarchy of food waste, the first, most preferred method is to give the food to someone else. The next one is then to recycle the waste, then it's landfill, etc.

"We've looked at all those different processes to get to where we are."

The fertiliser was first trialled with several hospital staff, and supporters of the hospital, with all keen gardeners who trialled the product reporting great results, especially with their herbs and certain vegetables like corn and tomatoes.

With word of the dehydrator and the sustainability committee's efforts spreading, Noel said more and more departments are looking to be involved in reducing their waste and making the PAH a more sustainable campus.

"We've got some more of the areas keen to do their part now and be involved like Emergency and Theatre, for example, they want to put their food waste into a separate bin so that they can contribute directly to this project.

Contact the PA Research Foundation on 07 3180 1840 or email reception@pafoundation.org.au if you would like to purchase fertiliser.

Fertiliser packs and prices:
$2 for 500 Grams
$3 for 1 kilo
$4 for 2 kilos
$6 for 4 kilos
$12 for 10 kilos

Larger quantities are available by negotiation.

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