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Waste management in healthcare: during and beyond a global pandemic
  1. Matt Lechner,
  2. Iona Harrap,
  3. Oscar Emanuel,
  4. Nick Eynon-Lewis
  1. Department of ENT Surgery, Barts Health NHS Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Nick Eynon-Lewis, Barts Health NHS Trust, London, UK; nicholas.eynonlewis{at}

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A couple of years on from the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a strategy shift in health policy from containment of COVID-19 to, as the title of the government’s COVID-19 response guidance document published in February 2022 by the Cabinet Office would suggest, ‘Living with COVID-19’.1 Restrictions on day-to-day life for UK citizens are comparatively minimal, and the legal requirement for an individual who has tested positive to isolate has now ended. Front-line healthcare workers are still subject to isolation guidance and still required to don PPE (personal protective equipment) with each individual patient contact. There has been talk of the world entering an era of pandemics. One might argue that we are also entering an era of PPE, and there have been no announcements about plans to relax mandatory face coverings and gown-wearing in hospitals. Close contact necessitates the use of eye protection or face shields in addition to disposable gloves, the mandatory use of which predates the pandemic. Over one billion items of PPE have been distributed in the UK between the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and February 2020 according to the Department of Health and Social Care.2 In England, even before 21 April 2020, 1 month into the first UK lockdown, 470 million pairs of gloves, 132 million masks, 145 million aprons and 1.2 million gowns had been delivered. These are staggering numbers given, at the time of writing, some 2 years of continued PPE use have passed since these figures were collated at a relatively early stage in the pandemic. Understandably, in the face of any pandemic, sustainability and waste management are not seen as a priority but are worthy of consideration in the context of the ongoing demands on the footprint and waste created by healthcare in the UK and worldwide. We propose a framework …

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  • Contributors ML, OE and IH performed the literature search and wrote up the article with input and guidance from NE-L.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.