Dietitian and farming advisor, Rosa Holt, is hoping she and her colleagues can help NHS Grampian reap the benefits of recycling huge quantities of food grade plastics used by health professionals every day.

Rosa explains: “We use thousands of bottles of supplements every week – 1,700 in the acute care of adults at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary alone. And in critical care we use lots of products fed to patients through tubes. They often end up in orange bags as they’re prescribed so people think they should be classed as clinical waste, but we have a huge opportunity to save both greenhouse gas emissions and money by recycling them.”

NHS Grampian currently spends around £125,000 every month disposing of clinical waste. A recent audit highlighted that up to 12% of orange bag (clinical) waste was noninfectious, non-clinical packaging and plastics, like the supplements bottles. By recycling these materials instead, NHS Grampian could save around £12,000 per month in disposal costs.

While the health board has the second highest overall recycling rate in Scotland at 44%, they also have an ambitious target to reach – 70% by 2025. A survey of critical care staff showed that 77% of staff wanted to know more about how to recycle things like supplements bottles.

Rosa Holt, Alison Welsch and Annie Moar in the Intensive Care Unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Rosa Holt, Alison Welsch and Annie Moar in the Intensive Care Unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Rosa works part-time as a dietitian and spends the other half of her week working in agriculture. She is Director of the Scottish Organic Producers Association, is part of the Sustainable Diets Committee for the British Diabetic Association, has experience lecturing on sustainable diets and develops action plans for Scottish farms. She works with farmers to maintain productivity while protecting the environment – helping them become more sustainable as well as more profitable.

She now hopes to help NHS Grampian with that switch through her work as a dietitian, working alongside colleagues including Alison Welch and Annie Moar as sustainability champions supporting the organisation’s Climate Emergency and Sustainability Strategy. Rosa adds: “We aim to encourage colleagues across NHS Grampian, particularly everyone working in wards, care homes and community hospitals, to recycle more. We’ve called the project ‘Recycle Plastic, It’s Fantastic’ and we’re here to offer support and advice.

“As well as the obvious benefits, it helps us deliver patient-centred care too. Sometimes we have patients who take bottles home to recycle them and I think even in the last five years the conversation has changed. People are more aware and want to see organisations trying their best too. I think it’s important to accept our lives will always have an environmental impact but if you make sure you recycle where you can it can make a big difference. ” Find out more about NHS Grampian’s Climate Energy and Sustainability Strategy.

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