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Nurses have ramped up their efforts to recycle waste at a hospital in Durham, following concerns over the volume of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) that was being thrown away amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Urgent care nurse practitioner Emma Francis told Nursing Times how the pandemic had given staff at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust a renewed focus on becoming more green-friendly and aware.
“As nurses you need to be aware that we have got a massive part to play in caring for the environment”
During the novel virus outbreak, the trust has launched a new campaign to call on staff, patients and visitors to take pride in the organisation’s buildings.
As part of the move, the organisation has implemented a series of posters to educate staff and the public on what items can be recycled appropriately.
In addition, plastic cups, used frequently during patient medicine rounds, for example, had been swapped for a recyclable paper alternative. As a result of the campaign, the trust said it had recycled more waste than ever before.
Ms Francis, who works at the University Hospital of North Tees, said she hoped staff efforts would “make a huge difference” and stressed the important role nurses played in making the NHS more environmentally friendly.
“As nurses, our job is to care and we are just normally caring for people, but you need to be aware that we have got a massive part to play in caring for the environment, such as the hospital,” she told Nursing Times.
Ms Francis noted that it was important for nurses to help remind their patients to be aware of the environment and encourage them to use the hospital’s recycling facilities correctly.
She added that efforts to recycle had “become the new normal” at the hospital, which she said was “nice to see”.
The nurse practitioner noted the high volume of items that had previously just been “thrown away” during a 12-hour shift.
“If we think of all the stuff that is getting recycled now, that wasn’t getting recycled before, hopefully it will make a huge difference,” she said.
Efforts to recycle had been boosted by the coronavirus pandemic, noted Ms Francis, who said the drive had increased “during the covid phase where there was a lot more single-use” of items such as PPE.
“Everyone is thinking green and we’re filling up a bin every day”
A focus on becoming more environmentally aware had been “picked up more in the past few months”, added Ms Francis.
“Especially during the covid pandemic. We’ve realised there’s been a lot more things that we are throwing away that we shouldn’t be throwing away as well,” she said.
Ms Francis praised her colleagues at the trust who she said had “really embraced” the move.
Her trust has also recently appointed a group of recycling champions to help lead the green-friendly drive.
Staff nurse Elizabeth Webb is the champion in urgent and emergency care at the University Hospital of North Tees.
She said: “We now have recycling bins in the staff area which are being used regularly by all of the staff.
“Everyone is thinking green and we’re filling up a bin every day.
“It’s really important we all do our bit to help and I’d like to thank the team for their support.”
In addition, Ian Thurgood has joined the trust’s subsidiary company, NTH Solutions, as the environmental services manager to take a lead on encouraging more people to think green.
Mr Thurgood reiterated that the trust had undertaken “a lot of work” to improve hospital signage and ensure that recycling bins were available in staff and public areas.
“Recycling is not only the right thing to do as an organisation, but it is also providing a cost saving to the trust,” he said. “Staff and the public have responded very positively – we are recycling more than we ever have done.”
At the start of the year, NHS England launched a grassroots campaign called ‘For a Greener NHS’ to encourage staff and hospitals to cut their impact on the environment.