Plastic bags project helps Trust go green

Paper bags, used in pharmacy instead of plastic bags. Image shows two brown paper bags with green writing on, on the counter in the pharmacy department. Staff can be seen in the background working.

Published 30 January 2023

Pharmacy teams at East Kent Hospitals have cut their use of plastic bags from a quarter of a million a year to zero.

It is part of the Trust’s work to become more environmentally sustainable, and meet the NHS’s target of being net zero for carbon emissions by 2040.

The plastic bag project was led by staff who are passionate about reducing their impact on the environment and improving care for patients. The team identified the three areas where plastic bags were most used and found sustainable alternatives, meaning the department no longer uses any plastic bags at all.

Sam Coombes, lead medicines information pharmacy technician, who spearheaded this project said: “As a Trust we recognised that the amount of plastic used in this way previously just wasn’t sustainable and the team worked hard to find solutions that not only satisfied our sustainability aspirations but were also workable for staff too.

“We switched our plastic fridge bags to reusable bags with an antimicrobial coating, our bags used for patients to take their medication home have been switched to paper bags, and the previous clear bags have been done away with all together.

“Instead, medicine delivery bags are used by porters and other staff to take medicines back to wards.”

Will Willson, director of pharmacy, added: “This was another fantastic project led by staff to source the right alternatives as well as working with our colleagues both across the Trust and 2gether Support Solutions to make sure these changes are integrated into working practices.

“I’d like to thank everyone for their hard work and vision – together we have made a real impact.”

Library teams are also championing environmental issues, and East Kent Hospitals is one of six NHS Trusts to have signed up to the Green Libraries manifesto; a seven-point pledge covering everything from making environmental thinking central to their work to providing up-to-date and accurate information on climate change.

And teams across the Trust are making small changes in their own wards and departments to save energy and reduce waste, from pledging to recycle more to making sure lights and computers are switched off in offices at the end of each day.