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‘Green endoscopy’ – how to reduce waste in the clinical setting

By Niamh Quinlan - 04th Jul 2022


There is great potential to conduct endoscopy, which is a leading generator of waste in healthcare, in a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable manner, Consultant Gastroenterologist at King’s College Hospital, London, Dr Bu’ Hayee, told the ISG/USG Summer Meeting audience. 

Dr Bu’ Hayee 

According to a 2017 study in the Waste Management and Research journal, endoscopy is the third-highest generator of waste in healthcare. 

“[This is] mostly in plastic waste, but also in terms of carbon footprint,” said Dr Hayee. 

He encouraged gastroenterologists to think more about the waste that is generated in clinical settings and how to work towards ‘green endoscopy’. 

“The first thing to do is to embed the change in your organisation,” said Dr Hayee. This can be done by creating a team with members from endoscopy user groups and nurses who can be appointed as “green champions” from within endoscopy ranks. 

The next step is to start recycling and implement recycling bins for non-patient contact material. “Most hospitals will already have waste management companies or waste management teams that will be able to help you do this, you just need to ask,” said Dr Hayee. He also encouraged switching to recycled paper, when paper needs to be used, and using digital and electronic systems where possible. While the latter does produce some carbon, it is still less than using “virgin” paper. 

He also encouraged healthcare professionals to ensure “everything you do” in terms of procedures, in the context of waste management, is justifiable and appropriate. 

“The greatest waste is a procedure that did not need to be performed,” he said. 

Gastroenterologists should look at where they can reduce water usage. Decontamination can use huge amounts of water and a “great deal of effort (carbon)” is used to ensure water quality. “Sterile water is produced in industrial plants; it’s shipped to us in plastic containers and then the plastic containers are thrown in the orange waste,” said Dr Hayee. “We need to work with endoscope manufacturers.” 

“Every single time that you meet with an industry rep, lobby them. Ask them what they are doing to be more sustainable.” Dr Hayee reminded the audience that lobbying works, referring to the reduction of plastic straws in the last number of years. 

Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Belfast Trust, Dr Philip Hall, who was a Chair for this session of the meeting, told the Medical Independent that green endoscopy was an area gastroenterologists “need to become much more familiar with”. 

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