Written by Sumal Karunaratne
24 Jan 2024

Navigating ERIC Data Reporting – Tips for NHS Healthcare Workers

We felt it was time to get better acquainted with ERIC, but before we get ahead of ourselves, we don’t mean the person…

The NHS is a complex ecosystem that relies on balance, cooperation, and careful management to function effectively – every detail matters.

This includes the meticulous management of clinical waste within the NHS. That’s where ERIC comes in.

Navigating ERIC data reporting with a full understanding of what it is can help you reduce your clinical waste volumes, your carbon emissions, and your costs. Read on for information about ERIC, some helpful tips, and advice on how to exceed the 20-20-60 waste split.

We’ll also introduce you to our sustainable sharps treatment process – designed to help reduce your carbon footprint and enhance your healthcare operations.



1 / Understanding ERIC data reporting.

2 / Challenges in reporting.

3 / The importance of quality.

4 / Helpful tips for reporting.

5 / Opportunities for reducing your clinical waste tonnages.

6 / How to exceed the 20-20-60 waste split.

7 / How the Effluent Retention System works.

8 / Looking for guidance with your ERIC data reporting?


Understanding ERIC Data Reporting


ERIC data reporting isn’t just important, it’s indispensable for the NHS. But what exactly is it, and why should you care?

Estates Returns Information Collection (ERIC) is a critical instrument for collecting data related to the costs and operations of the NHS estate, including maintenance and servicing. It encompasses buildings, services, and utilities.

It provides essential information about the activity, safety, quality, and running costs of the NHS, serving as a benchmark and compass for identifying areas in need of improvement.

Despite this, many Trusts grapple with uncertainties about what should be reported and how to go about it.

Let’s break down some pivotal questions and issues surrounding ERIC data reporting.



Challenges in Reporting


Whilst it’s a highly effective tool for the NHS, it’s not flawless. Some challenges arise and the most common include:

  • Differing interpretations of the guidance.
  • Inconsistencies with cost reporting.
  • Lack of treatment category diversity.
  • Lack of standardisation.
  • Infrequency of reporting.


Differing Interpretations of the Guidance

One of the biggest challenges is understanding exactly what should be reported, and how.

This has resulted in many Trusts misunderstanding how to complete their reports, especially where waste is involved.


Inconsistencies With Cost Reporting

In some cases, there may be inconsistencies with cost reporting, due in part to the way services are packaged and billed.

An example of this is whether or not transport is factored into the cost of a service such as waste management – in some cases it may be and in others it isn’t, leading to inconsistency.


Lack of Treatment Category Diversity

Accurate metrics require a more detailed approach to treatment and process with the ability to split out the different methods.

The report has limited treatment categories, an example of this affecting data quality is sharps waste. Historically, it’s been logged as high-temperature incineration but in the case of Sharpsmart’s service, it should be logged as alternative treatment – a 60% reduction in CO2e output.


Lack of Standardisation

There’s currently a lack of industry-wide standardisation for areas where waste potentially isn’t weighed, such as within the small-quantity waste generator sector.

Estimations and averages are used but these can vary from company to company leading to another area of data inconsistency.


Infrequency of Reporting

The present system of submitting reports at the end of October means they’re always a little outdated by the time of publication – making it difficult to keep an accurate measure of success and room for improvement in a timely manner.

It’s also clear that the true importance of ERIC data and capturing it accurately is somewhat unappreciated, or perhaps misunderstood.


The Importance of Quality


If consistency is key, then quality is the ring it needs attaching to.

High-quality data is the cornerstone of effective governance and ensuring resources are used wisely. It helps with making informed decisions and keeping things clear and accountable.

On the other hand, when data quality is lacking, it can lead to bad decisions and wasted resources and can leave vulnerable people at risk.

Good data quality also helps improve services, supports sustainability goals, and keeps you on track to meet targets on your route to Net Zero.

Now let’s turn our attention to some helpful tips for improving our ERIC data reporting practices.


Helpful Tips for Reporting


We didn’t want this blog to be all facts without any practical value to make life easier for you when it comes to ERIC data reporting, so here are some tips:

  1. Know why you're collecting data.
  2. Get clear guidelines for what data to gather.
  3. Understand how detailed the data should be.
  4. Check and make sure data is recorded accurately.
  5. Follow the rules and guidance for data collection.
  6. Use a consistent process to collect data over time.
  7. Keep a backup of your data to avoid losing it.
  8. Record data as close to the event as possible.
  9. Make sure the data you collect serves its purpose and that the purpose is up-to-date.
  10. Appoint someone to oversee the quality of your data.
  11. Connect the person overseeing data quality with the one responsible for environmental sustainability.
  12. When working with others, agree on how to maintain data quality.


ERIC data is also an effective tool at your disposal for making improvements, especially within your healthcare waste management processes.


Opportunities for Reducing Your Clinical Waste Tonnages


There are many opportunities for reducing your overall clinical waste tonnages, foremost among them is changing the ‘everything goes into orange bags’ mentality.

Introducing tools and methods to improve waste segregation will have a huge impact on your clinical waste volumes - blended learning programmes and educational materials have been proven to work to great effect.

Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust recently achieved an impressive 87.5% reduction of overtreated waste within three months after conducting a site-wide audit, re-establishing their offensive waste stream and implementing a renewed focus and effort on correct segregation.

ERIC data can help you identify opportunities to reduce your clinical waste, your carbon footprint, and your costs – especially when used in conjunction with an audit.

Speaking of audits and improving waste segregation, both will be critical when it comes to achieving the 20-20-60 waste split outlined in the NHS Clinical Waste Strategy – and for exceeding it.


How to Exceed the 20-20-60 Waste Split


The aim of the 20-20-60 split is to ensure proper segregation between high-temperature incineration (20%) / alternative treatment (20%) / offensive (60%) waste streams. This helps ensure that waste is sent to the lowest carbon treatment appropriate for the waste type and is critical to hitting the NHS Net Zero Target.

But can it be exceeded?

Yes, it can. Reusable sharps containers are one effective method for doing so, and even more so if treated using our patented Effluent Retention system. Let’s look at why.

Let's assume your Trust has 100 tonnes of waste split at 20-20-60. Using the NHS CO2 emissions factors, the waste would generate a total of 26.49 (tCO2e). 68% of the total carbon emissions would be generated by the incineration of only 20% of the waste.

"But we need to incinerate less of our waste!" you shout. If your Trust introduced our reusable containers, you’d remove up to a third of the plastic that's currently incinerated (6.7 tonnes).

Let's go one step further…

For those of you with eagle eyes compiling your ERIC returns this year, you may have noticed some changes in how to report alternative treatment waste – yellow sharps treated under Effluent Retention can now be classified as alternative treatment.

"What is Effluent Retention?" you ask. It's Sharpsmart's patented treatment process which allows yellow sharps to be classified as alternative treatment - reducing the overall CO2 output.

Let's assume that half of the remaining incineration waste could now be treated with Sharpsmart's Effluent Retention process. This would drop your Trust's CO2 emissions down to 16.76 (tCO2e) - a 37% reduction!

Your waste split would then be high-temperature incineration (7%) / alternative treatment (29%) / offensive (64%). 20-20-60 waste split exceeded.

It's worth bearing in mind that whilst the 20-20-60 waste split is a great target to aim for now, exceeding it will get you a lot closer to reaching the 50% CO2e reduction by the 2026 milestone.

Seeing an example of the results that can be achieved with sharps waste treated under our Effluent Retention System, you might be wondering how it works…


How the Effluent Retention System Works


Our Effluent Retention System (ERS) is a closed-loop pre-treatment process for medicinally contaminated sharps waste that merges environmental responsibility with healthcare efficiency and compliance.

The Effluent Retention System:

  • Validates sharps waste for alternative treatment.
  • Provides a sustainable alternative to high-temperature incineration.
  • Has a permitted capacity of 8,000 tonnes per annum – and is growing.


This process uses shredding, sterilisation, and a unique Effluent Retention System to ensure there’s no discharge of effluents to air or sewer throughout treatment.

Learn more about our Effluent Retention System and the impressive CO2e reductions it can help you achieve from our paper – The Effluent Retention System: A New Era in Sustainable Sharps Waste Treatment.


Looking for Guidance with Your ERIC Data Reporting?


ERIC data reporting is here to stay and with the NHS on the route to Net Zero, we’ll be seeing a lot more data-driven decision-making that ensures environmental responsibility throughout the healthcare industry.

Taking action by introducing reusable products, embracing alternative treatments, reducing waste sent for high-temperature incineration, and focusing on data quality can help you take substantial steps toward a greener future.

We’ve already been helping our partners access accurate trackable data every month and make a positive impact on healthcare and the environment.

Get in touch if you’d like help unlocking the full potential of ERIC data reporting.



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Sumal Karunaratne

Sumal Karunaratne

National Total Waste Manager

As a National Total Waste Manager with over 15 years of experience, Sumal is dedicated to securing sustainable outcomes through education and consultancy.