Published date: 18 March 2022

Global Recycling Day: The role of NHS estates

As owners of 10% of the NHS estate, NHS Property Services has a big role to play in reducing the amount of waste that the NHS produces. In this blog, Richard Davies reflects on our recycling programme over the past 12 months and what more we can do, together with the help of our occupiers, to tackle this growing problem.

The impact of sending waste to landfill has devastating effects on our environment with the world’s oceans, beaches, cities and towns are being clogged up, causing significant environmental damage and harming animals. The last 10 years have been the hottest since records began, and as Global Recycling Forum says, if we don't change our ways, temperatures will continue to rise, icecaps will melt and we'll see giant fires and rapid deforestation.

Each year, recycling saves 700m in CO2 emissions (Global Recycling Forum, 2022) so the link to our health is clear; increase recycling, reduce air pollution, save lives.

Global Recycling Day provides a chance for us to reflect on what we have achieved over the past 12 months, but also think about what more we can do, and how we work together with our customers.

NHS Property Services is dedicated to increasing the amount of recycling, lowering costs for the NHS and improving our environmental impact. I'm proud to say that over 99% of our waste is diverted from landfill.  

In the last 12 months we have:   


  • Introduced internal recycling and waste segregation at many of our sites.  
  • Decreased the amount of external general waste bins and increased the amount of external recycling bins.
  • Standardised our internal recycling, general and clinical waste bins and made it easier for our colleagues to procure these. 
  • Standardised our waste bin labels and posters which indicate what can and cannot be disposed of in the receptacles. 
  • Assessed collection frequencies to make sure our sites could recycle as much as possible. 
  • Completed hundreds of pre-acceptance audits which help us understand how clinical waste is being managed and how we can improve waste segregation. 
  • Signed up to a scheme which allows up to give away furniture, office equipment etc. to other NHS Trusts, charities, schools and local authorities.  

Colleague training

  • Developed waste management training, toolbox talks, procedures and guidance for colleagues to follow and support occupiers. 
  • Launched our waste e-learning training. 
  • Delivered knowledge calls on waste segregation and how to introduce recycling.

Single use plastics

  • Removed single use plastics form our catering areas.  
  • Blocked purchase of single use plastic cutlery and plates in our system. 

Find out more about how we are Tackling the Plastic Problem.

As you can see, it's been a busy year with three clear areas of focus. But we still have a long way to go to make a significant impact. 

Waste management posters and guidance

We've put together some guidance to help you separate waste at your site appropriately.

The guidance will help you understand what type of non-clinical waste should go into the different recycling bins and what type of clinical waste should go into the different colours of containers and bags.

View resources

To further improve recycling and waste segregation we are:  

  • Introducing more internal waste recycling bins to our properties.  
  • Working with our customers to help them increase waste segregation and recycling.
  • Sharing waste guidance and helpful tips with our customers.
  • Reducing clinical waste where possible.
  • Ensuring all bins are labelled to help colleagues and customers recycle correctly.
  • Sharing waste data with our customers so they can see how much of their waste is being recycled to help drive the numbers up.
  • Removing individual desk bins to encourage colleagues to segregate their waste.
  • Carrying out bin sizing exercises to ensure that sites have the correct bin.

There are also some simple things that our occupiers can do to help with recycling: 

  • Use the internal waste segregation bins and dispose of the correct waste in each bin. 
  • Avoid using single use items such as plastic bottles and coffee cups where possible.  
  • Read and print off our waste guidance and posters.
  • Work with suppliers to reduce packaging and to where not possible, encourage them to use either recycled or recyclable packaging. 

And finally, if you occupy one of our buildings and would like to increase recycling at your site, you can request recycling bins by getting in touch with your local Facilities Support Manager or our Customer Support Centre.