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Plastic bags swapped as hospital pharmacy goes green

Pharmacy Technician, Chloe Cates, demonstrates paper pharmacy bags

The Pharmacy team at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust have got together to banish plastic bags used for patients to carry medicines home from hospital.

Instead, new recyclable paper bags are being used for patients’ medicines, which will replace the single-use plastic bags.

The initiative came from a staff suggestion at a team ‘improvement huddle’ which aims to make improvements across the Trust. Staff wanted to get rid of plastic where they could, and so a new paper bag has been sourced and designed to cut down on waste.

Trudy Bown, Pharmacy Procurement Manager, said: “It’s great that the team has asked for this and that we’ve been able to implement it. We wanted to do our bit to reduce plastic and we recycle as much packaging as possible. We know it will be difficult to go completely plastic-free in healthcare, but this is one step on that journey.

“The new bags have already received a positive response from staff on Twitter, and we’ve released a video to show pharmacy teams how to use them effectively and hopefully inspire others to follow our lead.”

Paper pharmacy bags The Trust’s busy pharmacy uses over 1000 bags each week for patients who are sent home from hospital, which equates to a lot of plastic waste during the course of a year.

Previously, bulk orders were shipped from China, but to reduce carbon emissions, the paper bags are from a UK supplier. The new design has the traditional pharmacy cross and all the safety information relating to medicines for patients.

The new bags come in three different sizes which means a more appropriately sized bag will be used according to the amount of medicines going into them - eliminating more unnecessary wastage.

Trudy added: “The pharmacy is an incredibly busy hub of the hospital dispensing drugs to over 900 patients each day, so we’re thrilled that as a team we’ve got together to make this really positive improvement.”  

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