NHS clinical waste strategy and what it means for you

NHS England has just announced a new strategy to improve the sustainability of service providers across the nation. As part of a collection of documents that include the newly revised HTM 07-01, this new campaign will address clinical waste generation and segregation.

The challenge

It is estimated that NHS service providers produce 156,000 tonnes of clinical waste every year, making them one of the biggest clinical waste producers in the UK. All this waste is sent for high temperature incineration or alternative treatment – both of which require carbon and energy-intensive processes.

While many businesses have prioritised waste reduction and increased sustainability over the past decade, healthcare providers face many challenges in this area. Safety standards and/or time and cost pressures mandate the utilisation of single-use items in many situations. Energy consumption is also difficult to lower given the equipment and utilities that must be used regularly.

However, waste management is one aspect that all clinical service providers can have an impact upon.

A new waste management strategy for the NHS

NHS England has launched an NHS clinical waste strategy designed to bring about change. It outlines best practice guidelines to help individual service providers to contribute to a more sustainable NHS.

The document focuses on:

  • Data – collecting and using comprehensive data from across all NHS organisations to drive decision-making around clinical waste management.
  • Workforce – investing in knowledge and skills to ensure the workforce is able to optimise waste management processes.
  • Compliance – ensuring all staff understand and comply with waste management requirements.
  • Commercial – standardising contract arrangements in order to build a commercial market that encourages sustainable practices.
  • Infrastructure – increasing capacity and regional resilience in clinical waste infrastructure to support sustainable processes.
  • Sustainability – reducing harmful emissions, improving air quality and achieving net zero target.

At the core of both this and the changes to HTM 07-01, is an emphasis on improving waste segregation at source. This will help to reduce the amount of clinical waste generated that requires energy-intense treatment. The goal is to reduce waste sent for high-temperature incineration down to 20%, with only 4% intended for hazardous/clinical incineration. The strategy also aims to reduce waste needing alternative treatment to 20% and so the remaining 60% – classified as offensive waste – can then be managed in more sustainable ways and converted into energy.

What this means for you

Essentially, it is important for individual service providers to reassess their waste generation and management processes. Team training is essential to ensure that all staff understand exactly which waste items should be allocated to which waste stream, minimising the items that end up in clinical waste and requiring high-energy treatment. Your business sustainability may also be improved with the introduction or expansion of waste containers or bins fabricated from recycled materials.  For more information on the waste products, collection and disposal services available from Initial Medical that could support your sustainability aims, then visit our website.

To find out more, get in touch at 0870 850 4045 or visit the website today www.initial.co.uk/medical    

About the Author

Rebecca Waters, Category Manager, Initial Medical

Rebecca has worked in the Healthcare sector for the past 17years and was a Research Chemist with Bayer Cropscience prior to joining Rentokil Initial in 2003.  She keeps up to date on all developments within the clinical waste management industry and is an active member of the CIWM, SMDSA and BDIA.