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How sustainable waste management has supported the NHS during the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has put a spotlight on healthcare waste management. Throughout a difficult year working alongside the NHS across London, Bywaters continues to offer a dynamic approach centered around sustainability.

Over the past 12 months, the coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives more than anyone thought possible. Whilst city centers remain desolate, hospital wards and GP’s offices have been an everchanging operation. Working alongside the NHS across the capital, Bywaters, a leading waste management company in London, has adapted to the demand’s unpredictable nature. This dynamic approach adopted by their healthcare team helped handle fluctuations, supporting life-saving operations throughout London. 

A dynamic approach to national capacity issues

In the past year, the annual clinical waste tonnage produced by the NHS nationwide has doubled. Without the infrastructure in the UK to deal with this level of demand, Bywaters’ teams quickly implemented contingency plans, ensuring the trusts could continue with clinical activities. Working closely with their supply chain Bywaters implemented swift recoveries and temporary safe onsite storage, counteracting the national issue which caused waste build up at many locations across the country.

The upsurge in waste was led by the growth in disposable PPE usage. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 5.6 billion items of PPE have been delivered to England’s health and social care system, up from 2.43 billion in 2019. Through this period, multiple 770l bins of infectious waste were exchanged within COVID wards every hour. Bywaters onsite teams had to remain flexible, working 24/7 to manage the workload required. 

“Working at Guy’s and St Thomas’ during the pandemic has been challenging for all involved, but it’s really satisfying to know that we are an integral part of London’s response to Covid-19. We are really proud that we work so closely with the NHS and are able to ‘do our bit’. The team have stepped up to the plate amazingly – clinical waste has increased significantly, but we have managed to deal with this safely. By making sure our service runs smoothly, we have helped keep the hospitals operational.” Dan Goodhind – Bywaters Account Manager at Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Trust

Sustainability remains key

With attention focused on fighting the virus, it would be easy to lose sight of other issues threatening the planet. Around 13 million tonnes of plastic flows into oceans each year, according to a UN Environment estimate in 2018. With the vast majority of PPE single use, there is a fear that before long ‘there could be more masks than jellyfish’ in the ocean, if waste is not managed effectively.

Bywaters and their clients recognise the importance of continuing to implement the most sustainable waste management practices. Working with the NHS, it is fundamental to deliver innovative projects aimed at improving sustainability. This year, correct segregation has been essential, not only to reduce contamination, but to relieve the pressure on the clinical waste sector. Initiatives have been employed to reduce incorrectly labelled infectious waste, whilst introducing a non-hazardous offensive waste stream, where safe to do so. 

Looking forward, build back better

The push to reduce single use items remains one of the biggest waste challenges facing the healthcare sector. In 2018, a survey conducted in four Mayo Clinic locations found that single-use plastics made up at least 20% of medical waste generated in US hospitals. Tackling the issue head on, Bywaters continue to explore reusable options to once single use issues. The roll-out of reusable sharps bins has been given the go ahead at several locations. These bins can be used up to 600 times more than the disposable sharps bin, which gets incinerated along with the contents after use. 

Thank you key workers

This year has highlighted key workers across the UK. From supermarket check-out clerks to doctors and nurses, the UK’s response to the pandemic has been all encompassing. Bywaters are proud to work alongside the NHS, ensuring operational efficiency and sustainable improvements, even in the most demanding of circumstances. 

If you would like to find out more about our services, please click here. Or contact us at enquiries@bywaters.co.uk.

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