Save our Supplies saves the planet and helps people in need

Claire Lane has worked as a theatre nurse for many years and was appalled by the amount of clean medical ‘waste’ being thrown out that ends up in landfill. So she decided to create Save our Supplies (SOS), an innovative and cost-effective way of eliminating clean medical ‘waste’ from hospitals and repurposing it so it can be used by people in need of better health care.  

How does SOS work? They provide special collection bins for hospital operating theatres which staff use to dispose of clean, unused medical supplies and equipment. For larger items like beds, hospitals simply call SOS to arrange collection.   

These supplies are then collected regularly and taken to storage facilities where they are sorted, catalogued and repackaged. They are then distributed to people in need, both overseas and to disadvantaged groups in Australia.  

Their supplies have also helped wildlife charities look after injured animals after Australia's devastating bushfires in 2020. 

We spoke to SOS founder Claire about her business and journey and a Queensland #FemaleFounder.  

What inspired you to start your business? 

Australia's high standards of medical care mean that once packaging is opened and the contents are no longer sterile, the remaining unused, clean supplies cannot be used. They are simply dumped!  Similarly, instruments, equipment and furniture are thrown out every few years, despite being perfectly usable. An estimated $30 million in reusable medical supplies, representing hundreds of tonnes of landfill, gets dumped every year by Australian hospitals.  

As a theatre nurse, I was appalled by this waste and the significant associated environmental impact. I asked my supervisors whether anything could be done about the waste and was advised there was nothing available. As a result, I decided to create a solution by building Save Our Supplies (SOS) and a broad-based community support network to address the issue. 

What milestones have you reached? 

In the last three years we have established a broad-based community network of partners and volunteers that can grow with us as we expand throughout Queensland and nationally. We currently have 13 major Brisbane hospitals supplying us with their unused medical supplies. Rotary’s ‘Donations in Kind’ charity help us ship the repurposed medical supplies to countries in need.   

What business achievements are you most proud of to date? 

Lots of things! But we are most proud of these three achievements: 

  • We delivered approximately $2 million in free medical supplies to developing countries, including Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Cambodia and Fiji. These supplies have benefited thousands of people in desperate need of better health care – we helped establish a new maternity unit in Papua New Guinea, supplied 10,000 bottles of hand sanitiser to Fijian schools during the COVID-19 crisis, and are currently sending a wide range of supplies to assist the wounded in Ukraine. 
  • We saved approximately 20 tonnes of clean medical waste previously destined for landfill.  We not only prevented this waste from occurring, but we created a substantial humanitarian benefit and reduced hospital operating costs in the process.  
  • We increased our hospital partners from three to 13 in the last 12 months and now have most major hospitals in Brisbane partnering with us. 

Have you participated in any Advance Queensland programs, or received any support from Advance Queensland? 

We have been invited to join the ACE network. This has given us access to information, workshops and mentorships, which has been greatly beneficial to our growth. 

What’s your advice for other female entrepreneurs and businesses starting out on their entrepreneurship journey?  

You are going to encounter numerous problems along your journey. Don’t let them defeat you.  There is nearly always a workable solution to any problem. Stop, take a breath and think carefully about how to solve the problem and don’t give up your dream. If you can’t figure it out yourself, ask a friend who is already in business for their thoughts, find yourself a mentor, or do what I did and join a number of women’s business networking groups – they can be a great source of good ideas.  

In solving a problem, be aware that the solution can often be turned to your advantage. Our partnering approach with Medline and Rotary to solve our lack of funds problem is a good example of where the solution delivered a whole raft of benefits in addition to solving the lack of funds issue. 

Last updated 12 Jul, 2022
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