Written by Josh Glover
29 Jun 2023

Case Study: Healthcare Waste Management

With Net Zero on the horizon, sustainability is a hot topic amongst healthcare workers who face numerous challenges on a daily basis.

NHS staff are required to manage healthcare waste in a safe manner to protect themselves and patients from risk of injury and infection. Furthermore, there’s also the necessity to remain compliant and correctly segregate the waste ahead of disposal to ensure that it’s dealt with in the most sustainable way.

One of the most effective ways to encourage safety as well as ensure compliance is introducing the right tools and processes tailor-made for the healthcare environment that needs it.

In this blog

1 / We've helped hospitals like yours...

2 / The sharpsmart solution

3 / How does the Sharpsmart Solution work?

4 / Reduce your costs in Healthcare waste management 

We’ve Helped Hospitals Like Yours...

For over 20 years, Sharpsmart has been a trusted NHS partner known for developing innovative product lines and service solutions that increase the safety of staff and patients, whilst improving environmental performance.


In fact, one study that was conducted over a 12-month period across 40 acute care trusts showed that annually for every 100 beds you could:

  • Reduce your carbon footprint by 11.2 tonnes of CO2e.
  • Eliminate the incineration of 3.1 tonnes of plastic.
  • Eliminate the use of 0.5 tonnes of cardboard.
  • Eliminate the manufacture of 5,837 single-use sharps containers.

Another successful partnership prevented 339,690 single-use containers from being manufactured. Sharpsmart worked with Peterborough City Hospital which has further expanded across the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust. This expanded partnership has prevented more than 50 tonnes of single-use plastics from manufacturing and subsequent incineration, saving over 850 tonnes of CO2e from being emitted into the atmosphere. 

The Sharpsmart Solution

Sharpsmart always provides NHS partners with the most sustainable solutions for dealing with healthcare waste. Our services provide customers with the flexibility to deal with waste in the most environmentally friendly and responsible way. Part of the Sharpsmart solution is helping our partners to achieve improved results through auditing and education.

Our consultants perform a full site-wide audit to gain a thorough understanding of how waste is managed in your facility. We then develop a proposal equipped with bespoke solutions made to achieve maximum results across the five key areas of need: safety, sustainability, compliance, education, and efficiency.

Sharpsmart Contract Managers and key stakeholders within each NHS facility meet quarterly to review the partnership and ensure you’re always getting exactly what you need and with changes being efficiently catered for and adapted to. To keep everything on track and measurable, we also set objectives and KPIs that ensure we continue to deliver as expected and link into your own site-specific strategies. We use the waste hierarchy to drive our methods and our handbook for the compliant and sustainable disposal of healthcare waste is the guidance, support and direction found in the Health Technical Memorandum (HTM 07-01) published by the Department of Health.

We also work with the real data behind your waste to ensure we’re driving the best possible results for your facility. In fact, we’re big fans of data…

Each year, the NHS produces an Estates Return Information Collection report (ERIC); this report is collected and published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre on behalf of the Department of Health, with the goal of analysing estates and facilities waste information from across the UK.

The information we’re able to take from the ERIC report each year helps us to understand how the NHS is performing and where it needs help to improve.


Some key facts for the 2021-2022 financial year:

  • £152.8 million spent on healthcare waste management
  • 486.7 thousand tonnes of waste was produced by the NHS

We understand that not all waste can be treated in a method that results in reuse, recycling or recovery, but it’s important to point out that large volumes of disposed waste are the result of incorrect segregation. Bad segregation practices cause healthcare waste to be unnecessarily treated by expensive disposal solutions such as high-temperature incineration (HTI) and alternative treatment (AT). A recent audit conducted by Sharpsmart on the waste disposed of within a hospital environment revealed over 60% of the orange infectious clinical waste stream could have been segregated as non-infectious offensive or recycled waste.

Not only does this carry cheaper disposal methods, but it also has less of a negative impact on the environment. With some informative training and small changes, a hospital trust can make significant savings, both economically and environmentally.


An Innovative Approach to Healthcare Waste Management

Sharpsmart has developed a Blended Learning approach to healthcare waste management which can be configured to suit individual department applications and needs. The programme can be as simple or as complex as required. The Sharpsmart approach to education comprises concise waste segregation posters and information banners, waste bin labels, e-learning courses, training logs, and more. The Blended Learning approach can be uniquely configured to provide a bespoke healthcare waste management training course for all environments from the largest acute care hospital trusts to small general practices, nursing homes, and dental practices. Since introducing a bespoke blended learning waste management training package into Chesterfield Royal Hospital, 1,467 staff members have logged onto the system and completed the course, resulting in over 450 hours of waste management training being delivered remotely.

How Does the Sharpsmart Solution Work?

It begins with a review of your site’s layout which helps us to recommend the optimal solution to encourage correct segregation, thus maximising the volume of waste sent for sustainable treatment and reducing your clinical waste tonnages. Our full healthcare waste management solution will contribute to the management of waste movements across your site, including collecting and sending it for sustainable treatment to achieve maximum efficiency. Our network of regional and national relationships and fleet of dedicated vehicles and drivers enables us to collect all healthcare waste streams and provide the necessary treatment of your waste; ensuring you’re achieving the best possible results both financially and environmentally.

But that isn’t all…

We’re not just a waste service provider; we work with you as a partner within the four walls of your hospital to make a positive impact.

Although collecting and sourcing sustainable treatment solutions is a large part of Sharpsmart’s business, our main focus lies with the mechanisms behind how waste is managed internally on-site. Our partnership with Liverpool Women’s Hospital helped them to prevent 10 tonnes of polypropylene plastics from being incinerated, reduce their CO2 emissions by approximately 56 tonnes, and save 10% on their sharps management costs. Our initial findings revealed a general lack of education around waste handling techniques within the hospital. To combat that, we were able to provide an auditing system alongside training support and drive efficiencies. The introduction of our Bag-to-Bed system encouraged proper waste segregation and diverted 40% of the generated waste from clinical to offensive, infectious and alternate waste streams—delivering cost savings of 45%.

Reduce Your Costs in Healthcare Waste Management 

Across our 20+ year history supporting UK healthcare facilities we’ve been providing sustainable solutions that also keep our partners compliant with current legislation. In the last 12 months, Sharpsmart’s systems have prevented over 1,280 tonnes of waste from disposal, reduced over 7,260 tonnes of CO2 emissions and have provided a £1M saving to the NHS. These savings and reductions are all achieved without having to compromise on compliance, so if you’re looking for sustainable healthcare waste management and bespoke solutions, get in touch with our expert waste consultants today.


Speak To A Waste Expert


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Josh Glover

Josh Glover

Content Specialist

As a natural storyteller driven by curiosity, Josh aims to educate and engage through informative and thought-provoking content; working towards a safer and more sustainable healthcare system.