The NHS produces an average of 250,000 tonnes of waste every year at a cost of £40+ million1. Less than 10% of NHS waste is recycled2. The reduction of waste production and increase of recycling has both environmental and financial advantages.In the UK 5.5kg of waste per patient per day is produced. This figure falls significantly in countries with a greater commitment to waste minimisation and recycling such as France (1.9Kg waste/patient/day) and Germany (0.4Kg waste/patient/day). Packaging is non-hazardous, and therefore potentially recyclable. The Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust (LTHT) is one of the largest in Europe. Contributing to the total waste produced is the packaging of anaesthetic drugs and equipment which is currently disposed of in all the available waste streams, often the nearest waste bag is the one that is used.
This audit aimed to establish the amount of recyclable waste generated by the packaging of anaesthetic drugs used in a theatre setting and the potential savings. It also aimed to look at the practical logistics of altering the waste streams to facilitate this shift in practice.
Methods: A pharmacy database revealed the number of each anaesthetic item dispatched over a 1 year period. The packaging of each item was then weighed using the same set of calibrated digital scales. The cost of disposing this waste was then calculated. We also looked at the packaging of commonly used anaesthetic equipment. The number of anaesthetics given was established and the amount of anaesthetic equipment used calculated.
Results: 49,106 anaesthetic cases took place. 271,640 individual glass vials from 39,420 packaging boxes were used and 82,714 bags of IV fluid were given. The total weight of packaging was 6.3 tonnes. The total weight of the equipment packaging was 2.946 tonnes.
Discussion: This audit only looked at packaging as this is non contaminated and potentially immediately recyclable. When the packaging of surgical equipment is also considered the potential becomes huge. As demonstrated in other European countries, significant reductions in waste production per patient can be achieved. Theatres could be the ideal place to trial a system from a logistical point of view that if rolled out trust wide could make a very significant impact.