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NHSBSA: Doing our bit for the environment

Today is Global Recycling Day, which aims to recognise and communicate the importance of recycling to preserve resources and secure the future of our planet. I want to share with you how we have engaged with our colleagues to improve recycling habits and how we are preventing waste through our drive to go digital.

So what’s the issue?

Recycling rates across the UK have remained stagnant since 2013, with over half of households disposing of recyclables incorrectly. This is an indication that many people either don’t know the importance of recycling or don’t fully understand how to recycle. Either way, we need to do more to spread the message and improve understanding around recycling.

Let’s not focus on just recycling either; reducing the amount of waste we produce is just as important. We are currently using up nature’s resources around 1.7 times faster than the planet can regenerate them. This means that at some point there will be a resource shortfall, and for some resources (such as oil) this point isn’t too far away! We need to leave our throwaway lifestyle behind and move towards a one that consumes far less. Businesses need to do the same.


Here’s what we have done to engage our staff on Global Recycling Day...

We have organised a week-long campaign in the lead up to Global Recycling Day to create some momentum and increase awareness of recycling while encouraging staff to do their bit at home and at work. We have focused on a few different areas of waste prevention and recycling, here’s a flavour of our engagement activity:

What are we doing as a business to reduce waste and improve resource efficiency?

Most of the services provided by the NHSBSA are at scale. From processing and disposing of paper prescriptions, sending out letters to patients and pharmacists, to distributing plastic maternity exemption cards to mums-to-be. We have many exciting on-going projects which will change the way we work, reduce our waste and optimise how we use our resources.

Here are some examples:

‘Digitising’ services

We are ‘digitsing’ a range of services across the NHS which will significantly reduce the volume of paper we use and the amount of waste we generate. The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) and Electronic Repeat Dispensing (ERD) are great examples of this. In 2018, 1.1 billion prescription items were processed by the NHSBSA and because of our drive to go digital, we are now able to process 65.5% of prescriptions electronically. This has had great environmental benefits as it has significantly reduced the volume of paper used and paper wasted. We are continuing to roll-out this service to further reduce the number of paper prescriptions used.

Plastic to paper

As part of our service improvement programme, we have been phasing out plastic cards as proof of exemption from NHS charges and replacing them with paper certificates instead. From March last year, the Tax Credit Exemption cards were replaced by a double-sided A4 paper certificate. We have continued to look for more opportunities to move away from plastic exemption cards and last month we successfully introduced a plastic-less prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) and maternity exemption certificates (MATEX). The move from plastic to paper will reduce our impact the impact on the environment save the NHS from distributing 7.3 million plastic cards each year.

Removing single-use plastics (SUPs)

We have reviewed where we are using SUPs across the NHSBSA and we have developed an action plan to eliminate their use by the end of 2019. We use the most SUPs in our café, so this is where we have focused initially. We have already replaced many disposable items with reusable ones (for example plastic cups and cutlery) and we have introduced a discount for colleagues who purchase hot drinks in a reusable travel mug to encourage reuse. For the items we can’t remove completely, we are starting to introduce biodegradable alternatives.

We will soon be publishing our performance against our Environment and Resource Efficiency Strategy within our annual report, so watch this space to find out more…