Scottish hospital theatres recycling initiative scoops award

Environmental project reduces clinical waste by 1.9 tonnes a month and cuts carbon emissions by 70 tonnes a year

NHS Lanarkshire scooped first prize for Sustainability Excellence at the Scottish Health and Social Care Facilities Awards for its operating theatres recycling initiative

NHS Lanarkshire is celebrating 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 scooped 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 Hairmyres in East Kilbride and 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 Hairmyres and Monklands. And the theatre teams at Hairmyres are already doing similar work and it’s hoped that the success at Wishaw will reinforce that.”

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

Dr Livingstone 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.”

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

The positive reaction to the scheme has been key to the creation of a new sustainability working group, chaired by Heather Knox, NHS Lanarkshire’s director of acute services, which is already looking at ways to recycle surgical masks, intubation kits and tubing, and other materials including metals, glass and plastics.