Hospitals to scrub up their ‘green’ plans

British hospitals have new guidelines to go green including cutting carbon emissions from making medicines and sending far fewer inhalers to landfill. Yesterday the Sustainable Development Unit, the body tasked […]

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By Vicky Ellis

British hospitals have new guidelines to go green including cutting carbon emissions from making medicines and sending far fewer inhalers to landfill.

Yesterday the Sustainable Development Unit, the body tasked with helping the healthcare sector cut 34% of its emissions by 2020, released broad plans to target five areas for improvement.

The Sustainable Development Strategy is backed by NHS England, Public Health England and the Local Government Association.

Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of NHS England said: “We are extremely pleased that for the first time the health and care system is pulling together to address our major sustainability challenges such as climate change, pollution and adverse weather events.”

The strategy notes procurement of goods and services represents 72% of the NHS, public health and social care carbon footprint.

The rest of its carbon footprint comes from travel (13%) and the energy use of buildings (15%).

The SDU plan points a scalpel at pharmaceuticals and medical instruments as “carbon hotspots” worthy of specific attention.

It suggests cutting waste of a gas used for inhalers which alone account for 5% of the carbon footprint.

The UK uses 73 million inhalers every year and more than 63% are placed in domestic waste bins after use, most ending up in landfill.

Though the report points to manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline’s inhaler recycling scheme with pharmacies which recycled more than 90,000 inhalers in 2012, it gives no specific advice on cutting down waste.

It also suggests “active travel” for staff, hospital users and visitors – that is, travelling by alternative means than by car such as cycling or public transport.

The Environment Agency’s Climate Ready support service will publish an ‘Adaptation Toolkit’ for the health and care sector by early 2014.