Repurposing NHS cardboard packaging into pet bedding in partnership with a local social enterprise company

Ben Whittaker
Ben Whittaker • 28 November 2023

Project completed as part of the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board (CTM UHB) and Centre for Sustainable Healthcare Intensive Sustainable Innovation Group Scholar Programme

Scholar: Joanne Sullivan

Clean cardboard was collected at cost from hospital sites by a large multinational waste disposal company.

Specific Aims:
The aim was to identify and potentially reduce the financial and environmental impacts to the Health Board of this practice, alongside identifying and potentially improving the social and population impact of supporting a local social enterprise, Elite Paper Solutions. Elite repurposes clean cardboard into pet bedding.

Met with the Waste and Fleet cover Manager in CTM UHB. He provided me with the data on cardboard waste in our Estate. Cardboard was separated from other recyclables at each site and collected by Veolia, as stated earlier. I researched local social enterprises in the area that recycle cardboard. Elite Paper Solutions is a social enterprise in Merthyr Tydfil, which means that they are a business with a social or environmental purpose. Elite employs staff who are disadvantaged or disabled. An Elite van visited RGH twice a week to deliver empty confidential waste bins and exchange them with full bins of confidential waste. The full bins are then taken back to Elite where their contents are shredded.  I contacted the Elite Group Enterprises Manager (Production) and he proposed that that Elite picks up cardboard from RGH at the same time they pick up full bins of confidential waste. He stated that Elite would not charge to remove cardboard but for storage on site, they would require a skip. Cardboard would then be shredded on site at Elite, and then baled. This would be sold to the public as pet bedding, creating revenue and jobs for Elite. For carbon footprinting method – see Excel spreadsheet in Appendix of full report.

Environmental benefit:
The proposed position of collection of cardboard by Elite, as opposed to the current position of collection of cardboard by Veolia, would reduce the annual carbon footprint by 502.02kgCO2e

Social sustainability:
Elite Paper Solutions is based in Merthyr Tydfil and offers volunteering and employment opportunities for local disadvantaged and disabled individuals. The Elite staff profile consisted of 66 disadvantaged/disabled people: 43 staff are paid and 23 are volunteers and pupils from Additional Learning Needs schools/colleges on work experience. Many of the individuals starting as volunteers move on to paid employment at Elite and elsewhere, with the effect of improving life chances and reducing local unemployment. 

Financial benefit:
The estimated total cost to CTM UHB of removal of cardboard in RGH was £865.32 annually.  Elite offered to pick up cardboard at no cost to CTM UHB and required a skip to do so. CTM RIC Hub have offered to purchase a skip and donate to CTM UHB, in line with supporting work plan sustainability targets. To purchase a 20 foot enclosed skip, including delivery and VAT = £2766. It was proposed that costs would be met through underspend of RIC Hub and owned by CTM UHB.

Resource author(s)
Sullivan, J.
Resource publishing organisation(s) or journal
Centre for Sustainable Healthcare
Resource publication date
February 2023

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