Global Recycling Day - 03.2022

NHSBSA: Doing Our Bit for the Environment

Today ( Friday 18 March) is Global Recycling Day! It’s a day when we take time to understand just how important recycling is for the future of our planet and its natural resources. We want to share with you how the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has engaged with 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 our understanding of 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. In 2021, we had used up the equivalent of one planet’s annual natural resources by 29 July; depleting resources at an unsustainable rate. 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...

As an organisation, we strive to influence our staff and make every day ‘recycling day’. Through campaigns run by our Environment Network, we aim to increase awareness of recycling while encouraging staff to do their bit at home and at work. We focus 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 a large scale. From processing and disposing of paper prescriptions, sending out letters to patients and pharmacists, to administering Maternity Exemption Certificates to parents-to-be. We have many exciting ongoing 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 ‘digitising’ 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 and Electronic Repeat Dispensing are great examples of this. In 2021, 1.1 billion prescription items were processed by the NHSBSA and because of our drive to go digital, we are now able to process over 89% of prescriptions electronically. We are continuing to roll out this service to further reduce the number of paper prescriptions used.

Already, over 2 million NHS staff have shown their commitment to stopping paper waste at source by opting to receive payslips digitally. The paper this saves piled high reaches well over twice the height of Big Ben!

Plastic to paper

As part of our service improvement programme, we have phased out plastic cards as proof of exemption from NHS charges and replaced them with digital or paper certificates. The move from plastic to digital and paper has reduced our impact on the environment and in just a few short years has already prevented the distribution of over 20 million plastic cards!

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. We use the most SUPs in our cafés, 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 have introduced biodegradable alternatives.

Find out more about what we have achieved so far.