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Laboratory Support – Understanding your environmental commitments and obligations

Welcome to the Laboratory Support series where we discuss some of the challenges laboratories face in their day-to-day operations. We would love to hear from you about more topics we should be covering. In this post, we discuss the environmental initiatives, campaigns and policies being used by healthcare trusts throughout Great Britain to make the best use of precious resources.

Natural resources are under threat in a warming world with an ever-increasing population. Many individuals and businesses are attempting to reduce their environmental impact by being more aware of their resource use. This could include reducing non-essential purchases, re-using goods or packaging when appropriate and recycling wherever possible.

Within the healthcare industry, there can be additional challenges which are not faced elsewhere. One such challenge is waste production. For example, plastic packaging is often used to ensure sterility. For reasons of patient safety the production of waste and use of plastic is inevitable- and, in many cases, essential. It could be argued that more resources should be directed towards industries which need them, and away from industries which can avoid them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that practitioners and suppliers to the healthcare industry should become complacent.


‘Gloves are Off’

A recent initiative pioneered by the team at Great Ormond Street Hospital has targeted the use of non-sterile disposable gloves. The NHS currently spends approximately £35 million per year on disposable gloves. Research has shown that whilst practitioners have good intentions when choosing to use gloves, in some cases their use may contribute to the spread of infection rather than the control. The ‘Gloves are Off’ campaign was initiated to reduce costs, minimise waste and improve outcomes for practitioners and patients. The campaign was instigated by Great Ormond Street Hospital Lead Infection Prevention Control Nurse, Helen Dunn, and Lead Practice Educators, Amy Leonard and Nicola Wilson. So far, the trial is proving extremely successful.

As reported in the Nursing Times, in just one year, the campaign saved the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust more than £90,000 and prevented 18 tonnes of waste from being sent to landfill. This was equivalent to a 30% reduction in glove use over a 12 month period. Importantly, there was no increase in the rate of infection since trialling the idea. There have also been unexpected benefits including reduced incidence of contact dermatitis (when the skin becomes irritated or inflamed) and improved patient experience.


Sustainability in Wales

Here at CellPath, we have taken steps to reduce our waste and improve our efficiency. This ultimately helps to impact the waste production and energy consumption throughout your purchasing pipeline. We can all make an effort to be more conscious consumers and we’re no different here at CellPath.

One advantage of using plastic goods from CellPath is air-mile savings. We have a state-of-the-art injection moulding facility based in Newtown, Wales, meaning our goods are produced in Britain. For many items, such as cassettes, we are able to use the reground plastic waste from our other processes to contribute towards the overall mix which forms your cassette- the ultimate closed-loop system.

As well as making sustainable choices within your own organisation, another excellent way to improve your environmental impact is to choose suppliers who are already doing the hard work for you. Ensuring an optimised procurement pipeline has paid off for Public Health Wales who were rewarded for their hard work at the NHS Sustainability Awards and won the Procurement category. The Public Health Wales team also won in the Leadership category.

Elsewhere in Wales, countrywide policies are helping to ensure that the great successes achieved by Public Health Wales can be replicated. For example, the National Assembly for Wales publishes their sustainability intentions and achievements. Their latest round of objectives will be reassessed in 2021, and includes the intention to send zero waste to landfill by this date. The National Assembly for Wales have also been proud recipients of several awards recognising their commitment to sustainable practice- including, in 2014, the award for being the ‘Most Sustainable Public Sector Organisation Government.’

Back at CellPath, it is not only in the production of goods where we have ‘gone green’ – we’re also making an effort to improve our packaging. This may be a change you’ve already seen if you purchase pre-filled pots from us. Our cardboard trays, which hold the pre-filled pots, now contain 30% less cardboard and are 100% recyclable. When it comes to packaging your goods for dispatch we’ve replaced the plastic packaging chips with recycled paper filling on suitable orders. These changes have allowed us to reduce our environmental impact whilst maintaining the same excellent standards. We have already identified further opportunities to improve the sustainability of our packaging including the introduction of paper tape and replacing our lay-flat packaging with a biodegradable alternative. All proposals for improved sustainability throughout our processes will be carefully considered and rigorously tested to ensure our standards do not suffer as a result.


Minimising environmental impact

With products and packaging on the road to success, it was time to look at anotherCellSolv Environmental Chemical Disposal Service road- specifically, the road beneath the wheels of our new CellSolv van. CellSolv in itself is a service which allows for environmentally responsible chemical disposal, but our meticulously planned transport routes further add to the green credentials. Whenever a customer chooses to join CellSolv their requirements and preferred delivery dates are studied to determine the most effective route which can allow multiple deliveries to travel in the same van. This careful planning ensures that the CellSolv van travels with a full load as often as possible and avoids retracing routes unnecessarily.

Waste collection is similarly controlled with the waste products being removed from each hospital at the same time as delivery and then transported to a local chemical processing facility. This is all part of our standard CellSolv service and ensures the utility of precious storage space in your hospital can be maximised and the burden of tasks on the organiser is minimised. Once at the processing facility, waste which can be recycled is treated and waste which is not suitable for recycling can be safely disposed of in line with the latest environmental laws and guidelines.

Such comprehensive waste handling policies are widespread throughout private and public sector organisations. One such example is the Waste Management policy produced by the NHS in Scotland and based upon Scottish Government strategy. The ‘Waste Hierarchy’ approach described in the NHS Scotland Waste Management Guidance documents provides guidance on tackling waste production from the point of purchase.


The five steps are as follows:

1.Œ Prevent the waste- if you can’t prevent the waste then;
2. Prepare the waste for reuse-if you can’t prepare the waste for reuse then;
3.Ž Recycle the waste- if you can’t recycle the waste then;
4. Recover other value from the waste (e.g. energy)- if you can’t recover other value then;
5. Dispose of the waste- finally, send the waste to landfill when no alternative exists.

CellPath are proud to support our customers who strive to make precious resources stretch further and we welcome your feedback for ways we can improve even more.


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