QE Facilities believe that it is their corporate responsibility to invest in environmentally conscious business both in house and our practices within the Gateshead Trust. Many sustainable projects have been undertaken to reduce our carbon footprint and to improve biodiversity on site. Another project QEF have started to undertake is reducing our plastic consumption or switching to more sustainable plastic options where it is not possible to eliminate its use.
In the UK 1.3 million tonnes of packaging are discarded as waste within the hospitality sector. The NHS also recognised this as an issue and introduced the NHS Plastic Pledge in 2019 which was signed by The Gateshead Health NHS foundation trust to reduce its plastic catering consumables. The first change tackled takeaway food containers, cutlery and coffee cups. Many of our staff have limited lunch times and therefore a sit in only service is not possible. To minimise the impact of this, the department swapped from polystyrene takeout trays and cups to 100% compostable alternatives. The cutlery was also changed from plastic to wooden which is also compostable or recyclable and of course any customer who sits within the canteen is given reusable cutlery, cups and plates.
After tackling how the consumer would use less plastic whilst eating at the canteen, the focus shifted to what produce was being bought and how it was being delivered. One of the most effective ways to reduce the impact of single use plastic was to eliminate it from our delivery process. We now receive our fresh fruit and vegetables loose, usually brought to us in cardboard boxes which can then be recycled or reused. These small changes have had an incredible impact and in 2020/2021 Gateshead Health had the lowest spend on single use plastics in catering across the region.
Another project has been the swapping of plastic drums for pharmaceutical and cytotoxic waste to cardboard alternatives. Around 1.16kg of plastic is saved for each drum swapped to cardboard. However sometimes within the healthcare setting eliminating plastic completely is just not feasible; but we can look at how we can minimise how much plastic we use. This has been put in practice with the introduction of reusable sharps bins. In the next 12 months the use of these devices will prevent 32,758 single use sharps containers being manufactured, meaning 16.37 tonnes of single use plastic will not be produced and incinerated. Which will in turn save 93.12 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
As well as implementing these changes it's also been important to QEF to educate and promote to staff and the wider community on how to be reduce single use plastic. This has been done through social media campaigns, charity litter picks and simple things like using 100% recycled cotton bags at their job fairs. QEF and Gateshead Health have taken great strides to reduce single use plastic and we look forward to working together to produce further solutions