Doing the bins on a Sunday night is my least favourite part of the week. Not only does it signify the end of the weekend, it provides an unwelcome opportunity to reflect on what the household has consumed over the last 7 days. The post-on call Nando’s*, the midnight chocolate bar between turns of trying to get the baby back to sleep, the ‘I’ll only have one during the football’ beer cans leave me typically aspiring to achieve a cleaner lifestyle. ‘Oh well, at least it will get recycled’ I often think as I put it out for the morning collection. However, I am always struck by the amount of single use plastic our household uses, so much so we now have two plastic recycling bins. As the recent Greenpeace campaign highlights (1), the UK is less and less able to cope with amount of plastic waste created and has to send a reasonable amount of it overseas for disposal. This has significant detrimental effects on the health of the local populations and the environments of the countries accepting our waste.
We should all aspire to use less single-use plastic. Whilst our family have looked into means to achieve this, it is undoubtable that making changes within our practice as doctors is needed as well. The COVID-19 pandemic has had many long-lasting effects but I am sure that I am not the only one who was struck by the volume of single-use plastic items that we each used through a ‘typical’ working day to ensure safety to ourselves and to our patients. How can we make changes to reduce the burden of plastic waste created whilst not compromising the safety or care of our patients and ourselves?
Maurice and colleagues, in their paper on Green Endoscopy, discuss the development of a practical framework to achieve change within the NHS which is not only environmentally friendly but cost-effective and patient and clinician value-centred (2). This approach acknowledges that there are essential procedures that will produce waste but we can implement effective patient pathways to ensure that only the correct patients have them. When waste is generated, ensuring that it is disposed correctly increases the chances of recycling. Furthermore, reducing invasive procedures reduces the risk of complications to patients. This framework is simple and applicable beyond endoscopy and across all specialties. However, it will only be effective if we all engage with the process. Now is the time for us to take responsibility for our own mess and work together to achieve a greener NHS.
*Other takeaways are available
- https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/wasteminster-downing-street-disaster/ Accessed on 8/7/2021
- Maurice JB, Rochford A, Marshall S, Sebastian S, Dhar A, Hayee BH and the Green Endoscopy Group. Green endoscopy: using quality improvement to develop sustainable practice. Frontline Gastroenterology. Published online first: 7/6/2021. doi:1136/flgastro-2021-101874