NHS Lanarkshire scoops environmental project award

NHS Lanarkshire is celebrating scooping an award for a successful environmental project to reduce the amount of recyclable material being mixed in with clinical waste from hospital operating theatres.

The health board won first prize for sustainability excellence at the Scottish health and social care facilities awards for its initiative to reduce the environmental impact of clinical waste and increase recycling.

It was piloted at University Hospital Wishaw and there are now plans for it be adopted by theatre teams at University Hospital Monklands in Airdrie.

Michael Simpson, energy and environment officer at NHS Lanarkshire, said: “The waste segregation scheme involves putting dry, mixed material, including paper, plastics and cardboard, into clear bags for recycling.

“We’ve reduced our clinical waste by an average of 1.9 tonnes a month and increased our general waste, and therefore recycling, by 1.5 tonnes a month, compared to the previous year.

“That represents a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of about 70 tonnes a year.

“It’s also brought us an annual saving of around £25,000 because the cost of disposing of clinical waste is roughly four-and-a-half times higher than dealing with general waste and recycling.

“The scheme has been such a success that we’re planning to introduce it at Monklands and Hairmyres hospitals.”

The project was the brainchild of anaesthetists Dr Adam Livingston and Dr Alan Morrison.

Adam said: “Through staff education, encouragement and updates, our new approach to waste management has become standard practice in the theatre department.

“That’s a tribute to colleagues across the team and shows their commitment to making a success of this very worthwhile initiative.”

Alan added: “We’re showing that simple measures which need no increased resources can generate a significant impact.”


Good luck to them all for trying this, though it has all been done before.  The Achilles Heal of initiatives such as this is the lack of audit a) to identify what potentially hazardous clinical waste items are now finding their way to the general refuse stream, and b) the time taken and risks created by segregating wastes to this degree. As workload pressures increase corners are cut and mistakes made. Regrettably, this initiative is unlikely to be any different, but Good luck!


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