NHS England Launches Ambitious New Clinical Waste Strategy
Clinical Waste Strategy

The NHS has revealed details of its new clinical waste strategy that it claims will reduce carbon emissions from waste by up to 30%. Let’s Recycle reports that the 10-year strategy also aims to save the health service up to £11m per year in recurrent revenue costs. 

The NHS has pledged to research ways of re-using, recycling, or remanufacturing the materials it uses to reduce waste and return resources back into useful products. It has also committed to the improved use of data for better forward planning and decision making, and to increase staff engagement and invest in waste management training.

According to a report in Materials Recycling World, the NHS currently does not have standard policies across many of its establishments to segregate general non-clinical waste. Going forward, all teaching hospitals will be required to introduce appropriate recycling bins that are clearly signed and regularly collected. 

The clinical waste management strategy will seek to standardise waste management contracts and appoint a dedicated waste manager to each NHS Trust or Foundation Trust by 2023. It seeks a 30% reduction in carbon emissions for clinical waste and a 50% reduction in general waste emissions by 2025/6. 

Simon Corben, Director of Estates and Head of Profession, NHS England, said in a statement published on the NHS England website:

“Every year, NHS providers produce approximately 156,000 tonnes of clinical waste that is either sent to high temperature incineration (HTI) or for alternative treatment (AT), which is equivalent to over 400 loaded jumbo jets of waste. This has a significant environmental impact and is associated with high running costs and carbon emissions.”

“Therefore, as one of the largest producers of waste in the country, it is vital that the NHS disposes it in a safe, efficient and sustainable manner, and we are only creating waste when absolutely necessary.”

Corben added: “This strategy also encourages the use of innovation to increase NHS waste management resilience, improved data use to help guide decision making, and improved staff engagement and training to improve compliance and seek out carbon reduction opportunities in the system.”

“In our journey to reduce waste to an absolute minimum, there will be many opportunities to review the materials we use and to find ways of re-using, remanufacturing, or recycling, thus turning them into valuable resources for future use.”

The Health Minister Will Quince commented that the NHS was also seeking a 10% reduction in the use of single-use clinical plastics as a short term strategy. Ultimately, he said that the NHS will aim to eliminate all single use plastics or seek alternatives that can be recycled or safely reused. 

During the pandemic, the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) caused a huge surge in the volumes of plastic clinical waste, leading to calls from the World Economic Forum for urgent reforms. It recommends the introduction of reusable PPE and greater use of biodegradable or recyclable materials. 

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