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NHS launches new waste management framework to boost net zero ambitions

Sustainability is now a key tenet of NHS strategy in its ambition to reach net zero carbon by 2040.

The NHS’ corporate services provider, NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS), has launched its inaugural ‘Sustainable Healthcare Recycling & Waste Management’ framework agreement, designed to help the NHS meet net zero.

The framework agreement has been developed in collaboration with Barts Health NHS Trust, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and suppliers of pioneering sustainable waste management services and technologies.

It gives NHS organisations and the public sector access to carefully vetted vendors of innovative, sustainable waste management solutions, like pyrolysis technology, on site bio-digesters and food recycling management, with the ability to buy them compliantly, cost-effectively and at pace.

The new NHS SBS procurement framework agreement includes:

  • New state-of-the-art technological solutions like pyrolysis – heating material to a high temperature without oxygen, releasing the energy trapped inside it which can then be used to heat the hospital estate.
  • Aerobic bio-digesters – a form of on-site accelerated composting which can significantly reduce food waste taken off-site.
  • Microwave treatment, using a heat source to decontaminate various types of medical waste, which can then be managed without high-heat incineration.

NHS sustainability dial has moved from ‘nice to have’ to focal objective

In 2020, the NHS declared its ambition to reach net zero carbon by 2040. The NHS’s clinical waste strategy published in March 2023, sets out NHS England’s ambition to transform the management of clinical waste by eliminating, reusing and processing it in the most cost effective and sustainable way.

According to NHS England, NHS providers in England produce around 156,000 tonnes of clinical waste each year – the equivalent to more than “400 loaded jumbo jets of waste”. This is mostly either subject to high-temperature incineration or “alternative treatment”.

NHS England aims to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions produced from waste management by 2032, by increasing sustainable environmentally friendly waste management methods and ensuring that 100 per cent of NHS providers have fully trained waste managers to ensure that waste is managed effectively and appropriately.

Emma Clyne, NHS SBS Principal Category Manager – Estates and Facilities at NHS SBS, commented: “Sustainability in healthcare waste management has moved from a ‘nice to have’ position, to a focal objective where trusts will be required to undertake work to implement the new guidance.

“Best practice waste management reduces waste, improves compliance and delivers significant cost savings from lower waste volumes. This plays a crucial role in minimising harm to the environment and increasing resource utilisation, reducing carbon generated from waste, and saving taxpayers money.

“Our framework agreement offers an easily accessible and compliant procurement route with the very latest sustainable waste management offerings and sustainable management expertise obtainable.”

For more information about the Sustainable Healthcare Recycling & Waste Management framework agreement, contact the NHS SBS team at: sbs.hello@nhs.net.

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