by Clarissa Cheung
Hi There! My name is Clarissa Cheung and I am currently a fourth-year urban planning student from the University of Waterloo. For the last four months, I worked with UHN’s Research Facilities Planning and Safety (RFPS) Department as the Sustainability Intern. I had the opportunity to take part in a number of environmental initiatives across UHN. During my time here, I have gained a lot of insight into just how important sustainability is, from an environmental, economic, and health perspective. I hoped to share a little bit about my primary project, which was the launch of a new ice pack reuse initiative within the research labs.
Ice pack collection containers
As pharmaceuticals and other materials need to be kept cool during transportation, those ubiquitous gel ice packs arrive here in large quantities. These ice packs are usually thrown into the trash almost immediately, despite being in perfectly reusable condition. They are also pretty heavy, and as landfill costs are by weight, it is quite pricey to throw these away. Usually, a small number of these are taken home by lab members for personal use, but there are only so many that can fit in our freezers and lunch boxes!
I reached out to local companies such as the U of T MedStore and FroggaBio who, thankfully, have agreed to reuse UHN’s ice packs! Within the first month of the pilot study, 150 lbs of ice packs were collected at Krembil Discovery Tower alone. With the expansion of this program to the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower and eventually Princess Margaret Hospital and Max Bell Research Centre, almost two tonnes are expected to be diverted from the landfill annually.