Publish date: 28 February 2024

An exciting new project to recycle packaging from single-use items is projected to reduce the waste being incinerated from UCLH theatres by around 215kg a year.

Historically, packaging from single-use surgical items can be difficult to recycle through standard recycling routes due to the packaging being made of mixed materials – in this case plastic and metal. 

The new recycling programme, delivered in conjunction with suppliers Johnson & Johnson MedTech and their partners, MYGroup and Resourcify, will enable both metal and plastic components from suture foil packaging to be collected, sorted, and repurposed into new products. This will be an NHS first. 

Special recycling bins made from recycled plastics will be installed in theatres initially at Westmoreland Street, followed by University College Hospital, The Grafton Way Building and at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. These have been designed especially for this packaging, to reduce the potential for further contamination.  

Waste management and recycling company, MYGroup, will collect and take the waste items back to its state-of-the-art facilities, where they will be shredded and fed through an electrostatic machine to separate the metal from the plastic. MYGroup will convert the separated plastic into its innovative ‘MYBoard™’ – a material similar in consistency to plywood – used for construction, shop fitting and joinery, as well as a wide range of products, from chairs and tables to storage boxes. Any metal components will be smelted back into aluminium for recycling into new products. 

The project has been overseen by the UCLH sustainability team with the backing of infection prevention and control. 

UCLH sustainability lead, Joe Burton, said: “This is a great way for UCLH to reclaim valuable materials such as metals as well as giving plastics a new lease of life, whilst generating CO2 savings compared to incineration or taking items to landfil.

“Whilst only a small change, this project is a fantastic example of one of our suppliers taking responsibility for its waste. We hope this sets a precedent for others to follow suit as well as opening conversations amongst our staff.” 

Steve Carrie, Director, MYGroup, said: "This initiative, in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson, will deliver a significant and lasting contribution to the NHS’ waste targets – particularly in diverting a large proportion of plastic from incineration – and our work will demonstrate the art of the possible: that there is no such thing as 'unrecyclable' waste, even from the most complex operating environments.”