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Hospital polar bear highlights need for environmental change

8 October 2010

Children on dialysis have made a polar bear out of waste packaging from their medical equipment to demonstrate how the healthcare industry needs to think about the amount of waste it produces.

Children from the Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust (GOSH) haemodialysis and renal wards worked with artist Darcy Turner on Thursday 7 October during a day of activity on the kidney wards and of education in the hospital’s school. The polar bear was constructed from a wire frame which was covered and stuffed with waste packaging in the form of plastic wrappings and bottles.

Nephrology Consultant Rukshana Shroff explained why this project was so important to patients and staff:
“There is a huge quantity of waste every day from the packaging that the medical equipment we use comes in.  Obviously there is a need for sterile, safe equipment, but products often come in excessive packaging that is oversized for the product and contain unnecessary extra bits of plastic that are simply discarded. The plastic is not recycled and the manufacturers do not provide facilities for recycling the waste: this accounts for 72 per cent of the carbon impact of kidney care, and the majority of emissions are attributable to pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and waste services.

“Our polar bear project is a fun and interactive way for children to learn about environmental issues and what they can do to help. The waste plastic used to make this polar bear comes from only two to three days of haemodialysis treatment for 15 children. We treat nearly 300 children with kidney failure and do long-term dialysis on 40 children every year – imagine the amount of waste plastic from just one department of one hospital alone.

“We have signed up to the Green Nephrology Programme and continue our discussions with suppliers to reduce waste, and other ways of conserving water and energy on our unit.”

The polar bear, who was named Perry by the patients, also marks the global day of climate change action (on Sunday 10 October 2010) encouraged by the world wide environment project 10:10 where individuals and organisations commit to reducing their carbon emissions by ten per cent over the period of a year starting during the 2010.  For more on day of action 10 10 10: http://www.1010global.org/uk/events/101010-around-world

Kidney care has this year become the first clinical specialty in the UK to address its environmental impact with the creation of a Green Nephrology programme.  The aim is to support the transformation to sustainable kidney care, harnessing the benefits to patients, staff and the NHS. Kidney units are supporting the 10:10 campaign and have created their own “10:10 Checklist” of actions to reduce their carbon footprint: http://greenerhealthcare.org/green-nephrology

This project was made possible with very kind of help of Kimal plc.

Contact information:

GOSH-ICH Press Office: 020 7239 3125
Email: barbej@gosh.nhs.uk
For genuine and urgent out of hours call speak to switchboard on 020 7405 9200

Notes to editors

Photographs of the project are available on request

www.darcyturner.com | darcyturner180@hotmail.com | 020 8981 8307

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