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healthcare business today
26 Apr 20231 min read

Healthcare Business Today Publication

Healthcare Business Today - Tunley Environmental


Nathan WoodDr Robert Moorcroft and Dr Torill Bigg wrote a white paper on the unaddressed issues of sustainability within healthcare which include high volumes of waste plastic, and the use of anaesthetic gases with a high greenhouse gas potential. The paper has recently featured on the Healthcare Business Today website, read it below.

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NHS England estimates that it is responsible for 4-5% of England’s carbon footprint. With current global consensus moving towards net-zero emissions, it is imperative that healthcare plays a significant role [1]. Reducing the carbon footprint of healthcare could play a vital role in meeting climate targets, with NHS England pledging to become one of the first net-zero healthcare providers by 2040 [2].

The versatile class of materials, plastics, have become an integral component of modern medicine. Plastics, in various forms, find extensive use within medical consumables [3]. Many plastic items used within a medical context are “single-use”, with estimations showing that only 5% of plastic waste used within the healthcare system of the United Kingdom is recycled[4]. In contrast, only 15% of medical waste is classed as being biohazardous, which requires incineration due to biosecurity concerns[4]. 

It is projected that while plastic use and waste disposal plays a substantial role within the carbon footprint of healthcare (< 30%) [2], one of the main contributors to healthcare emissions is the use of anesthetic gases. Global estimates place the use of anaesthetic gases as being equivalent to one million cars being on the road [5]. Anesthetic gases such as nitrous oxide and desflurane are the single biggest contributor to NHS England’s carbon footprint, accounting for ~40% of the total emissions [6]. These anesthetic gases have a much higher CO2e, for example desflurane has a CHG potential 2,540 times greater than carbon dioxide. However, finding alternatives or changing working practices of anesthetic gases is more complicated than reducing the use of plastics due to the regulatory framework around anesthesia.


Read the full article below.