Can you bear the waste?

Frances Mortimer's picture

Children from Hippo and Victoria wards at Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust (GOSH)  haemodialysis and renal wards worked with artist Darcy Turner on Thursday 7 October during a day of activity on the kidney wards and of education in the hospital’s school. The polar bear was constructed from a wire frame which was then stuffed with waste packaging in the form of plastic wrappings and bottles. 

The project coincides with other initiatives across the UK, as renal departments challenge medical equipment manufacturers to reduce waste and increase recycling opportunities. Perry the polar bear was displayed on his iceberg in the main hospital reception where people could pop along and learn more about Green Nephrology projects.

Nephrology Consultant Rukshana Shroff explained why this project was so important to patients and staff: “There is a huge quantity of waste every day from the packaging that the medical equipment we use comes in. Obviously there is a need for sterile, safe equipment, but products often come in excessive packaging that is oversized for the product and contain unnecessary extra bits of plastic that are simply discarded. The plastic is not recycled and the manufacturers do not provide facilities for recycling the waste: this accounts for 72 per cent of the carbon impact of kidney care, and the majority of emissions are attributable to pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and waste services.


“Our polar bear project is a fun and interactive way for children to learn about environmental issues and what they can do to help. The waste plastic used to make this polar bear comes from only one week of haemodialysis treatment for 15 children. We treat nearly 300 children with kidney failure and do long-term dialysis on 40 children every year – imagine the amount of waste plastic from just one department of one hospital alone.”

“We have signed up to the Green Nephrology Programme and continue our discussions with suppliers to reduce waste, and other ways of conserving water and energy on our unit.”

The polar bear, who was named Perry by the patients, also marks the global day of climate change action (on Sunday 10 October 2010) encouraged by the world wide environment project 10:10 where individuals and organisations commit to reducing their carbon emissions by ten per cent over the period of a year starting during the 2010. For more on day of action 10 10 10, visit:

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