A south coast care home provider has removed more than a million single-use plastic items from its operations.
Twenty-one nursing and residential homes in Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire and Sussex, including four dementia-specific settings, are central to Colten Care’s bid to eradicate throwaway plastic.
Ahead of a ‘Caring without plastic’ campaign launch in spring 2018, the provider estimated that 1,161,124 plastic items could be avoided each year through a more environmentally friendly approach.
They included plastic bin liners, drinking straws, disposable drinking cups and containers used in services such as clinical care, catering, housekeeping and gardening.
Residents, families and team members all fed in ideas for the campaign which has achieved every initial target for the first year.
A move to re-usable cloth sacks for rubbish and waste has eliminated the need for some 365,000 plastic bin bags that previously would have gone into landfill.
A fresh approach to the storage and dispensing of cleaning liquid has avoided the need for around 19,000 plastic bottles.
On the nutrition side, Colten has removed all single-use plastic straws from its catering services, replacing them with ones that are fully biodegradable. This has taken out around 480,000 pieces of plastic.
Other initiatives include replacing disposable plastic water cups by water coolers with recyclable paper ones, changing the coffee supply packaging used in foyer coffee machines to a non-plastic alternative, and laundry staff replacing disposable latex gloves with washable, re-usable ones.
Director and co-founder of the Colten Group, John Colwell, said: “A year ago we became the first major UK care home provider to begin a group-wide reduction of single-use plastic.
“Since then, we have successfully replaced a huge amount of non-recyclable plastic with environmentally friendly alternatives.
“Now we are going even further and widening our focus from the avoidable use of plastic to try and reduce our overall carbon footprint.
“We are taking radical steps in our operations so we can make a positive difference. Our residents, team members and suppliers have the same concerns about the environment as anyone else and we want to do right by the communities in which we operate.”
As well as its 21 homes, Colten Care has introduced a range of low-carbon and energy efficiency measures at its head office in Ringwood, Hampshire.
Solar power there has grown from 12% of consumption in 2018 to a projected 41% this year.
Overall energy consumption in, for example, heating, air conditioning and lighting, is being reduced through more time controls, powering down of systems and appliances, and by setting temperature parameters.
Steve Taylor, Director of Facilities Management, said: “In 2018, our head office consumed 160,000 kilowatts of energy, equating to 77 tons of CO2 emissions or 17 return flights to Perth, Australia.
“In 2019/20 we expect to have reduced that by 50 tons while still maintaining a comfortable working environment for head office staff.”
The head office also supports a local dairy that supplies its milk in reusable glass bottles. This is saving 1,500 plastic bottles from going to landfill annually.
Among further environmental measures planned for this year, Colten is looking to build more energy efficiency into its home refurbishments and work with suppliers to lower the carbon footprint involved in sourcing uniforms and materials.