For many of us, Christmas time brings festive cheer, great food, and gifts, but also an extensive amount of waste. Whilst we’re looking to build a greener world, it’s easy to get caught up in the season and turn a blind eye to the increased amounts of packaging and other items that we throw away.
It starts at home
In 2018, the UK used approximately 289,171 tonnes of card packaging – enough to cover Big Ben nearly 260,000 times.
Looking around homes, businesses, and even clinical settings, there are likely to be many items that may only be used once before being thrown away. Think of the mountains of wrapping paper, decorations, and plastic packaging on gift and food items.
It is worth remembering that even an artificial tree will have to be thrown out at some point, and it would need to be used for around 10 years before its environmental impact is less than that of a real tree.
Individuals can try to buy greener, by investing in decorations that can be reused for many years to come. Otherwise, when they do dispose of them, it should be done properly, by recycling where possible to help decrease the volume of waste that is sent to landfill.
Strains on the system
In healthcare settings, the changes may be slightly more subtle. Aside from any Christmas touches to bring a festive feel to a waiting area or staff room, there is a chance of an increase in the amount of actual clinical waste being produced.
The NHS often faces greater pressure in winter with the rise of seasonal illnesses, and it may be that these services, alongside those of care homes, see their waste increase as they care for patients.
Clinical waste management in these settings is far stricter than the disposal of general waste. As you’ll likely know, clinical waste needs to be separated into its appropriate streams dependent on the risk it poses.
Orange clinical waste bags, for example, are used for the disposal of soft hazardous, and non-hazardous waste from those with a suspected or known infectious disease. This would include face masks or tissues contaminated by respiratory secretions, or mucus, which may be more common as people succumb to seasonal infections like the flu. In the correct waste stream, these items can be safely disposed of without the risk of cross-infection.
Clinical waste will likely not reach the levels of seasonal products thrown away at Christmas – the number of potatoes alone thrown away around this time of year (approximately 710,000 tonnes) towers over the yearly waste produced by the NHS (around 600,000 tonnes).
Despite this, all clinical waste must be properly managed and separated to help prevent any harm from being posed to staff, patients, and clients.
Initial Medical provides a full range of clinical waste solutions, including colour coded bags that are made of 30% recycled plastic – whilst staying tear-resistant – to fit your practice’s unique needs.
Keeping an eye on what you throw away personally and professionally this Christmas could help the world around you in unimaginable ways. Whilst the increase in waste over the festive period often seems unavoidable, the response to the waste created can always be adjusted for the better.