Sharpsmart: Impact on Life-Cycle Carbon Footprint

Authors:   T Grimmond, A Bright, J Cadman, J Dixon, S Ludditt, C Robinson, C Topping

Publication:   British Medical Journal Open, BMJ Open 2021



What is the study?

The study investigated the National Health Service England’s (NHS) 2020 commitment to being the world’s first "net zero" NHS through, “…reducing waste, unnecessary plastics, and single-use items.” 

The article compared the impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, plastic manufactured and cardboard used, of 40 acute NHS Trust hospitals converting from single-use sharps containers to reusable sharps containers. 


What did we learn?

In the 12 months following conversion to reusable sharps containers, the combined results for the 40 Trusts were: 

  • GWP reduction of 3,267.4 tons of CO2e (-83.9%). 
  • Elimination of incineration of 900.8 tons of plastic. 
  • Elimination of disposal/recycling of 132.5 tons of cardboard. 
  • Elimination of manufacture of 1.7 million single-use sharps containers
  • A 61.1% reduction in labor required for sharps container exchanges. 

'Adopting reusable sharps containers is an example of a sustainable purchasing decision that can assist trusts in meeting NHS greenhouse gas reduction targets and can reduce global warming potential permanently with minimal staff behavioural change.'



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