Central Manchester tames clinical waste with tiger bags

Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has diverted 40% of its clinical waste into a cheaper-to-treat category, by introducing special ‘tiger’ bags.

The distinctive yellow and black striped bags are for clinical waste such as dressings and incontinence pads used by non-infectious patients. Previously all clinical waste had been heat-treated in an autoclave, but this process – which adds £100 per tonne to the cost – is now used only for waste from infectious patients. Amounts going through the more expensive process have fallen from around 130 tonnes in April 2014 to around 60 tonnes in December 2016.

Overall, the trust has cut the average waste generated by each patient contact from 3.03kg in 2013-14 to 2.81kg in 2015-16. “We’re trialling coffee cups, chewing gum and healthcare plastics having their own streams,” sustainability and energy manager Claire Igoe told the NHS Sustainability Day event, held on the trust’s main Manchester Royal Infirmary site in February. “The initiatives in themselves aren’t huge, but they raise the issue of waste.”

Staff have to navigate 27 types of waste. To help, the trust has reviewed and colour-coded bin labels, using icons to make them clearer. It also commissioned posters designed by a local communications agency, including one pointing out that more than half of the contents of its healthcare waste bags have contained packaging, hand towels and other material that can through a cheaper-to-treat process.

Central Manchester has a range of labels and posters for environmental campaigns, most featuring a green heart logo, with messages including ‘Turn it off’ for lights and ‘Step it up’ for using stairs. “Caring about the environment, it’s the same as caring for patients,” said Igoe.

She added that the trust also uses ‘Leave me on’ stickers by equipment that must be left running, which the agency said was a first in its experience of environmental campaigns.

The trust runs awards for environmental work using a model adapted from the National Union of Students’ Green Impact awards. These include a Golden Beaker for the best lab, said Igoe, adding: “Our labs are very competitive.” The last round of awards involved 31 teams and more than 700 staff saving an estimated 353 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and at least £65,000. The next round will be launched on national NHS Sustainability Day, 23 March.

Central Manchester has also partnered with Warp It, a company that helps organises re-use of items through an online system which allows them to be claimed by others. Igoe said this has saved the trust £70,000 in 12 months, with 700 staff using the system. It has extended its work with Warp It to colleagues at University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust; regulators are currently is considering plans for the Central Manchester and South Manchester trusts to merge in autumn 2017.

Igoe said that Central Manchester has carried out a number of other environmental improvements which save nearly £400,000 annually. These include adjusting the power settings on computer monitors, changing building management systems, economising on boiler settings, insulating the plant room and installing LED lighting in the trust’s multi-storey car park.

Central Manchester is also working to shift staff to using public transport to commute to work. This includes part-funding the 147 bus route from Manchester’s Piccadilly station to its main site, served by hybrid technology buses, and free monthly breakfasts for staff who cycle to work organised jointly with neighbours organisations the University of Manchester and the Royal Northern College of Music.

Igoe said that between 2013 and 2016 bus commuting rose from 17% to 19.9% and cycling increased from 7% to 12.2%, while solo car use fell from 55% to 44.1%. The trust produces personal travel packs for all staff showing their options for getting to work, in some cases including free trial tickets. “We particularly focus it on new starters,” she said, before they have developed travel habits.

Transport for Greater Manchester is providing more encouragement for staff to move from driving to bus and cycling, as it is closing stretches of Oxford Road to private vehicles between 6am and 9pm, including most of the road on the western edge of the Manchester Royal Infirmary site.

Central Manchester sustainability work

First published on TheInformationDaily.com