Clinical Waste Disposal: Reducing Single Use Plastic within the NHS

4 November 2020

NHS Supply Chain recently supported Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to remodel their waste management system following an internal review which found hazardous and non-hazardous waste being disposed of in the same bins. This was non-compliant with HTM (Health Technical Memoranda) guidance and was also having a significant impact on costs- as hazardous waste is more expensive to dispose of.

As a result, the trust has introduced a blue-bin system to allow for suitable waste segregation and reduced need for single-use plastics. This has led to improved sustainability and cost-efficiency, for example:

  • 20% cost-savings achieved by implementing a separate channel for hazardous waste
  • 29% consumable savings by switching from plastic containers to board-based containers for pharmaceutical waste
  • 46% reduction in carbon emissions as board-based containers are 96% more renewable than the plastic alternative.

The new system is proving successful and has therefore been rolled out quickly across all 200 wards within the hospital.

We were able to switch from rigid plastic to rigid board-based containment for this waste stream which has helped our trust address the requirement to improve our environmental performance, generate savings whilst continuing to move towards fulfilling our sustainability objectives.

Jason Mitchell, Waste Manager at Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The NHS Long Term Plan, published in 2019, outlined the key objectives of the NHS for becoming a low-carbon institution. Specifically, reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality, reduction of single-use plastics and improving efficiency to reduce waste, water and carbon. The NHS Supply Chain is committed to the continued support of these advancements in a cost-efficient manner.

See our Useful Links section to view the framework for clinical waste containers and the original case study from Newcastle Upon Tyne Foundations Trust.