Environmentally sustainable medicines related waste destruction

Published on 8 August 2022

About the project

WMAHSN is scoping the introduction of reusable and lower carbon medicines waste disposal containers. Medicines are responsible for 25% of the NHS carbon footprint and this project is aimed at reducing a proportion of that carbon footprint. When medicines are returned they are placed in a destruction bin and the whole bin undergoes incineration.

Studies undertaken in UK hospitals and abroad have demonstrated that reusable sharps containers when compared with single use sharps containers, can provide significant Greenhouse gas reductions, with the additional benefit of providing a solution that requires minimal staff behaviour change[i]. A complete life cycle assessment of reusable and disposable sharps containers revealed that the overall ‘carbon footprint’ of an industry standard reusable sharps container can be up to 76% less than that of disposable containers[ii]. Alongside reusable sharps containers, reusable medicines waste containers and lower carbon medicine waste containers are available.

[i] Grimmond TR, Bright A, Cadman J, et al. Before/after intervention study to determine impact on life-cycle carbon footprint of converting from single-use to reusable sharps containers in 40 UK NHS trusts. BMJ Open 2021;11:e046200. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-046200

[ii] Sharpsmart website https://www.sharpsmart.co.uk/our-sustainability

Project ambitions

The WMAHSN is currently scoping a project that looks to:

  • Explore the feasibility of introducing reusable medicines waste containers with an initial pilot demonstrating proven implementation success.
  • This will provide a tried and tested method of implementation to allow wider rollout across secondary care sites and potentially primary care and community pharmacy settings
  • Reduce CO2 emissions and lower the NHS’s carbon footprint.

Project team

Anna Edwards

Innovation Project Manager

Rabia Gowa

Innovation Programme Manager

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