NEWS: NHS pledges plastic cull

Up to 100 million plastic straws, cups and pieces of cutlery are being cut from hospitals under an NHS drive to reduce single-use plastic.

Retailers operating in hospitals have committed to changes starting with straws and stirrers from April. Cutlery, plates and cups are being phased out over the following 12 months.

Last year The NHS bought 163 million plastic cups, 16 million pieces of plastic cutlery, 15 million straws and two million plastic stirrers.

Suppliers including WHSmith, Marks & Spencer, Boots and Greggs along with the wider NHS Supply Chain have all pledged to take action.

Changes already taking place include:

  • Yorkshire Ambulance Services NHS Trust is saving around four tonnes of plastic waste a year after a campaign to remove plastic waste from the staff canteen. The trust replaced plastic milk bottles with glass, plastic cutlery with wood and plastic drinks bottles with cans and introduced a water refill point.

  • Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has removed more than half a million single-use plastic items from its canteens, including 227,000 pieces of cutlery and 231,180 cups.

  • The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is saving £80,000 and has removed every year almost 2 million single-use plastic items, including cutlery and bowls.

Helen Bird from sustainability charity WRAP, the Waste and Resources Action Programme, said: “It’s positive to see the NHS taking action to turn the tide on plastic waste, removing plastic items where they do not make sense for the environment, and looking for alternatives to materials which are not recyclable, like expanded polystyrene cups.

"It sends a strong message to the public and suppliers to the NHS; our throwaway culture will become a thing of the past.”

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens has urged hospital trusts with in-house catering to step up and match stores’ commitment.

He said: "We’re pleased that as a first step, major retailers operating in hospitals have committed to cut their plastics, starting with straws and stirrers, cutlery, plates and cups.”

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