How much do we usually think about items we throw away?
Well, if we’re honest not a lot unless we start to really think about the realities of this enormous topic and the impact to our planet!
Environmental Impacts of Single Use products
In the UK, we are sending 1.6 billion single use face masks to landfill every month. Add to this NHS hospital PPE, aprons, gloves and single use hats and you start to think about the enormity of the waste, especially with the pandemic and the ever-increasing use of masks on a daily basis. Climate change poses a major threat to our health as well as our planet. The environment is changing, that change is accelerating, and this has direct consequences for patients, the public and the NHS.
Masks are typically made from polypropylene, a fossil fuel-derived plastic that can take hundreds of years to break down, landfill is the destination for these but sometimes they don’t stay here – many get blown around and sometimes end up in our waterways which has a detrimental effect to our wildlife.
We have a solution to single use masks in the form of washable cloth masks but perhaps there needs to be more education to enable people to understand the implications of their simple action of throwing masks away. They then may opt for the cloth masks. Making this small change is a start which we can all do to reduce the impact to the environment.
We also have a solution to disposable hats as well: reusable name and role hats which can be taken home by the clinicians to wash. The need for change within the NHS is huge and the colossal amount of single use plastics are discarded on a daily basis. Theatre hats alone can account for much of this.
An average 20 theatre hospital would usually dispose of around a minimum of a 100,000 caps per year all going into landfill. Our hats will last for at least 3 years which can also at the end of their life be re-used (shredded and used as insulation for various things e.g., car door insulation).
The solution to part of this challenge is happening right now. Re-usable fabric theatre hats are quickly making headway in many hospital theatre Trusts across the UK. An increasing number of NHS Trusts are now moving towards this initiative to help in reducing the massive waste issues in our landfill sites and we are trying to help them to achieve their goals.