Healthcare sector engagement on recycling ‘key’

Increased staff engagement in the healthcare sector is key to improving waste and recycling practices within hospitals and other healthcare premises, according to the head of waste management firm Bywaters.

Speaking at the firm’s Innovation in Healthcare Waste Management seminar at the Royal College of Physicians, managing director John Glover outlined how it has installed two staff members as part of its contract with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust to help it improve recycling behaviour on wards.

Glover also outlined other work Bywaters has done under its contract with the Trust; an estimated 500 litres of waste oil from the hospital was being used to power vehicles in London each month.

Other features described include a weighbridge system in the hospital loading bay – allowing it to flag up the areas which are failing to engage in recycling activities.

“Embedding the principles of sustainable development into all aspects of an organisation’s business will, in turn, result in increasing, long-term benefits not just for that organisation, but for the economy, environment and society as a whole,” said Glover.

“The waste oil from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital is being collected by a local biofuel company, turned into biofuel about one mile from Guy’s Hospital and is powering London vehicles, including black cabs and local business generators.”

Also speaking at the seminar was the Trust’s sustainability manager Alexandra Hammond, who said the organisation is working hard to tackle the problem of clinical waste contamination in its domestic waste stream.

“There has been a real shift during the last five years,” said Hammond. “Now we are doing something that looks at the environmental impacts of what we do and how that affects the businesses that work with us and our patients.’

The Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust – one of the largest employers in South London with more than 12,000 staff and over two million patient contacts a year – is considering rolling out punitive measures to ensure wards reduce contamination, including a “three-strike system” after which they would face a penalty fine.

As of 2013/14, waste costs are down 15% while the Trust believes it will save an extra £1million through its energy performance contract (EPC) framework.

Meanwhile, waste consultancy Independent Safety Services’ technical director Dr Anne Woolridge also told delegates that on-site treatment of healthcare waste at hospitals could one day become a reality.

Woolridge explained that local treatment of domestic and clinical waste from hospitals would make sense given the current definition of “offensive waste” making it suitable for alternative methods of disposal.

Offensive waste, which under current legal definitions is considered non-infectious, includes sanitary products and nappies and is in some cases suitable for recycling. In December last year, OCS Group opened the UK’s sole nappy recycling facility in Rochester, Kent.

“There are a lot of companies out there that say you can treat all your waste on-site., she said. “This would make financial sense and return a lot more control. We know that at some point people will look at doing this and the Environment Agency is looking at reviewing the permit conditions.”



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