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Linen Wastage is a 'Mark' Against NHS Sustainability Targets, Says Textile Services Association

Linen Wastage is a “Mark” Against NHS Sustainability Targets, Says Textile Services Association
27 October 2023

The CEO of the Textile Services Association has criticised the levels of linen wastage in the NHS, which causes unnecessary carbon and water use.

According to the association, the NHS loses over 80 per cent of its linen, including bed sheets, pillowcases, and surgical gowns, every year.  Most linen items are owned by commercial laundries, collecting, washing and repairing/replacing items as needed. 

The yearly loss of NHS linen is equivalent to 7,600 tonnes of carbon, and to manufacture those four million lost pieces will take 24 billion litres of water, or 300 million full bathtubs.

Presenting at the recent Healthcare Facilities Management Conference, Textile Services Association (TSA) CEO David Stevens said “It’s a massive problem and a (…) mark against the NHS’s own sustainability targets. A key issue is getting NHS staff to understand the value of the linen they use – a lot of the losses are due to misuse. For example, they shouldn’t be using bed linen to clean things or mop up spills.”

The TSA is working with the NHS on an educational campaign to help staff understand the value of linen, using posters that list the types of stains that can damage the linen.


Disposable Vs Reusable Gowns


David also spoke about the 30 per cent of NHS estate that use reusable surgical gowns: “The sustainability argument is cut and dried. A disposable gown can be used once, reusable gowns can be used 70 or more times, which makes them both economically and environmentally the best choice. At end of life, disposable gowns have to be disposed of, whereas reusable ones can be recycled.”

“The feedback we have had from NHS bosses has been very positive,” he says. “We are working with them to find the best way to educate and change attitudes, with the aim of delivering a more sustainable linen service for the NHS.”

Picture: a photograph of some white bed linen, screwed up into a ball. Image Credit: Unsplash

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 27 October 2023


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