The Reusable Sharps Containers Promoting NHS Carbon Savings

NHS trusts have the potential to achieve major carbon savings with the launch of a new reusable sharps container service from Grundon.

The service, developed in partnership with Inpress Precision, specialist manufacturer to the medical and healthcare sector, uses Sharpak Zero™ reusable containers. These save an average 87% of the carbon used within the lifetime of a container, thereby preventing millions of single-use containers being disposed of each year.

Andy Stratton, Grundon’s Commercial Manager – Clinical, says this is a potential major win for NHS trusts as they work towards carbon emission reduction targets set out in the NHS Clinical Waste Strategy.

“By 2026, trusts have been tasked with achieving a 50% reduction in carbon emissions produced from waste management, a figure that rises to 80% by 2028-2032. In particular, they have to reduce the average net cost of clinical waste management by 15% per tonne of waste by 2030, and this is where we can help,” said Andy.

“The hard facts are, that to achieve these carbon and financial savings, bold decisions will have to be made about adopting new technology and new ways of operating.

“Sharpak Zero reusable sharps containers are proven to reduce carbon emissions yet, most importantly for busy nursing staff, they do not require any changes to existing sharps container disposal routes, making the implementation easy to manage.”

The carbon-savings come in the reuse process once the containers have left NHS premises

The Sharpak Zero containers, which are approved to UN standards, are collected in exactly the same way, but on arrival at Grundon’s facilities are emptied using specialist equipment.

The contents are weighed before being sent for High Temperature Incineration, then the empty containers are sanitised and inspected before being returned to Inpress Precision for quality checking and redistribution.

Each Sharpak Zero container is fitted with an identifying barcode to track the number of times it has been used. After 10 uses, the container will be granulated for reprocessing into new containers.

After 10 cycles of 10 uses, the plastic is granulated again and used in other plastic products, so the plastic is never wasted, only borrowed.

A recent trial at Hammersmith Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, saw Sharpak Zero containers installed in two ICU units, which were chosen due to the high volume of sharps used.

With staff training provided by Grundon and Inpress Precision, in just eight weeks the Trust saved 1.26 tonnes of CO2e, compared to disposal of its existing single-use sharps containers.

Andy continues: “We were extremely pleased with the trial results and believe Grundon’s reusable sharps container service has the potential to generate real carbon savings for NHS Trusts.

“The benefits of this process are three-fold. Most importantly, we are saving carbon emissions because we are no longer needlessly incinerating millions of single-use sharps containers every year.

“Secondly, weighing just the contents of the bins gives NHS trusts a true carbon reduction figure because it does not include the weight of the bin; and lastly, cleaning and reusing the containers mean no plastic is wasted in addition to dramatically reducing the amount of virgin plastic required to produce new bins each time.”

Each Sharpak Zero container is fitted with a patented VisiLOCK closing mechanism, eliminating the risk of contamination or needle-stick injuries, and approved to UN 3291 and ISO 23907:2019 Part 2. The containers are available from Grundon or via the NHS Supply Chain.