Hospitals in England urged to reduce plastic consumption by 100 million items

Straws, cups and cutlery are targeted by NHS England head Simon Stevens 

Straws, cups, cutlery and plates are targeted by NHS England head Simon Stevens 

Picture: iStock

Hospitals in England have been urged to cut the consumption of up to 100 million plastic catering items such as straws, cups and cutlery.

NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens wants hospital trusts to sign a pledge to reduce the use of plastic straws and stirrers by April 2020, and plastic cutlery, plates and cups by April 2021.

The request relates to staff- and public-facing areas, and, as alternatives, trusts are advised to provide items such as glass cups and water fountains.

Heavy use of catering plastic  

According to NHS England, the health service purchased at least 163 million plastic cups, 16 million pieces of plastic cutlery, 15 million straws and two million plastic stirrers last year – a total of 196 million items. 

NHS England claims that consumption could be reduced by up to 100 million items if the health service cuts its use of catering plastic.

Retailers operating in hospitals have already pledged to meet the targets set by NHS England. 

NHS England and NHS Improvement’s chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May, said nurses and front-line staff are already taking the lead on environmental issues and sustainability.

She added: ‘Support from local NHS organisations to sign the pledge and cut the use of catering plastic will require all NHS staff to take action in their own areas, and encourage their employers to go further faster.’

Benefits of plastic reduction  

Mr Stevens said reducing plastic consumption ‘will be good for our environment, for patients and for taxpayers who fund our NHS’.

Plastic items required for medical reasons are exempt from the pledge.

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