The words Sustainable Healthcare Waste Management on a blue background with someone holding a stethoscope to the right

Is NHS at Beating Heart of Sustainable Healthcare Waste Management?

This month, the National Health Service (NHS) moved to boost the sustainability of the UK’s healthcare waste. NHS Shared Business Services publicised the launch of the first framework agreement to help meet net-zero targets. But is there more the government can do to help things along?

Three years after announcing an aim to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040, the NHS’s clinical waste strategy outlines how they’re working to make waste management not only more sustainable but cost-effective too.

The team that worked on the Sustainable Healthcare Recycling & Waste Management framework agreement includes Barts Health NHS Trust, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and other trusted suppliers. It mentions the following sustainable solutions:

  • Pyrolysis — This is the thermal decomposition of materials (solid or liquid) at elevated temperatures.
  • Aerobic bio-digesters — Oxygen is used to break food down into grey water that can be disposed of in a drainage system or used as fertiliser.
  • Microwave treatment — The heat decontaminates medical waste and, as moisture allows deeper heat penetration and sterilisation, it’s the ideal solution for waste that’s not dry or solid.

NHS healthcare waste in context

Emma Clyne, NHS SBS Principle Category Manager for Estates and Facilities, said:

“Sustainability in healthcare waste management has moved from a ‘nice to have’ position, to a focal objective where trusts will be required to undertake work to implement the new guidance.

“For context, the clinical waste strategy says that every year, NHS providers produce approximately 156,000 tonnes of clinical waste — equivalent to over 400 loaded jumbo jets of waste — that is either sent to high-temperature incineration or for alternative treatment. This has a significant environmental impact and is associated with high running costs and carbon emissions.

NHS healthcare waste quote with doctor in blue scrubs to the side and more healthcare workers behind

“Procurement teams at NHS trusts, as well as in the wider public sector often operate with very stretched resources. They struggle to find the resources and capacity for specialist research as well as the ensuing procurement.

“Our framework agreement offers an easily accessible and compliant procurement route with the very latest sustainable waste management offerings and sustainable management expertise obtainable.”

What can the government do to help?

Around 50% of NHS Trusts are not on track to meet their decarbonisation targets. To date, the NHS has reduced emissions by 1% annually. This level will need to reach 8% going forward.

According to the Centre for Circular Economy at Exeter University, 62% of all NHS emissions are down to the supply chain. The university suggests that the government step in to help the NHS better engage with suppliers to “move beyond energy efficiency and incremental innovation to systemic innovation”. There are also recommendations that the NHS implement mandatory requirements for suppliers to measure and reduce their own emissions.

RJS Waste’s sustainable healthcare management solutions

Our Operations Director, Jonathan Gotham, comments on the new framework from the NHS:

“It’s fantastic to see the NHS moving in the right direction and, with the government’s help, they should meet their targets. Waste management is a difficult industry to keep on the sustainability track.

“But the need for us all to start thinking and doing differently has never been more real. Sustainable healthcare recycling and waste management will make a difference to the UK’s environmental impact, and we hope to see more of the big industries following suit.”

When it comes to sustainable waste management, the RJS Waste team also has its finger on the pulse.  Not only are we committed to our environmental policy but we offer WEEE recycling services. We even introduced an electric car to our fleet last month!

We’re also experts with all types of clinical waste. From sharps and dressings to medicine containers and blood bags, we provide fully insured and licensed removal, transportation and disposal of hazardous healthcare waste. What’s more, we’ll always recycle healthcare waste or dispose of it sustainably wherever possible.

Do you need sustainable healthcare waste management services in London, Oxfordshire or West Sussex? Look no further than RJS Waste Management.

Contact us online for a quote or call your local office number and talk to a member of our friendly team — Chichester: 01243 213273 | London: 020 7859 4520 | Oxford: 01865 598069.