In this week's blog post, we're exploring what environmentally-friendly patient care means in the context of budgetary constraints within the NHS, and how we can care for the planet and for patients at the same time.
Unless you’ve been living in the depths of the deep blue seas dodging plastic bags and bottles, you’ll have seen plenty of coverage around the plight of our oceans in the face of our addiction to that cold hard shiny stuff. But when you’re in hospital, your ability to keep up with separating out your rubbish, and putting everything into its respective recycling bin is limited. On top of that, your priority is probably on feeling better and getting back to your healthy self, rather than worrying about the consumables you’ve had contact with whilst you were in hospital. Being environmentally-friendly isn’t just ‘a la mode’, it’s necessary. In sickness and in health.
Every NHS Trust will talk about their own localised recycling policies to bring in a new age of greener healthcare in the context of a system struggling to sustain itself financially. The struggle to recycle more in hospital settings isn’t just the responsibility of clinicians or healthcare professionals. Patients can also play their part. An article in the British Medical Journal published in 2009 revealed that between 2005-2006, 408,218 tonnes of waste were produced by the NHS. Even more shockingly, £73 million was spent on the disposal of that waste, which equates to 5.5kg of waste per patient. Whilst most waste is incinerated, if even a small proportion of it was recycled the environment would thank us for it. There are statutory restrictions on what can be recycled, how it has to be transported, and how it must be disposed of: it’s not as simple as recycling within our own homes. With only 10% of NHS waste being recycled, and in the face of the peril faced by our future planet and generations, we need to do more. Whether that’s operating in a paperless environment, or implementing Vernacare’s single-use system, small steps can help to make a big difference.
Sodexo is a service provider who partner with NHS Trusts to help them live up to their green potential. By examining ways of streamlining operations, improving recycling rates, and reducing the amount of waste going to landfill, they systematically help Trusts to become more sustainable. They do this by asking the question ‘Can this be reused?’: the answer is obviously no for any products that have been in contact with human bodily fluids. But they encouraged staff and patients to segregate food waste from other general waste. As a direct result of segregating food waste from general mixed waste, Central Manchester Hospital, Queen’s Hospital (Romford), and Queen Mary’s Hospital (Roehampton), managed to improve recycling rates from 40% to 92%.
At Vernacare, we’re regularly asked, ‘Why are your single-use products grey?’ The truth is they have always been green. We are committed to minimising the impact we have on the environment from the source of our raw materials through to the end of our products’ life cycle when they are broken down in our disposal units and flushed to the drain. Our manufacturing plant holds green credentials and is accredited and audited to the internationally recognised ISO 14001 Environmental Management Standard. This is because we take our environmental responsibilities seriously.
All of our single-use bedpans, urinals and bowls are made from recycled fibre. From the outset, we’re committed to minimising waste with the Vernacare system incorporating our unique SmartFlow™ technology to allow our moulded fibre containers to be used once and then flushed to the drain without adding to landfill.
Patients are at the heart of our business, but that’s not to the detriment of the environment. How can you as a patient help our planet when you’re too poorly to even get out of bed? At Vernacare, our products relieve you of that responsibility so you can focus on restoring yourself to your fully-functioning self. Our Vernacare system uses 39% less water and 97% less energy than alternative reusable systems. Not only do our products have environmental benefits, but rates of healthcare acquired infections such as C. diff are reduced, compared with using reusable plastic containers. We believe we are a key player in the move towards long-term sustainability by introducing our hygienic single-use system to the world: saving the lives of patients and saving the world at the same time. We’re green, and we can help you and the hospital caring for you to care for the environment at the same time.