Technological watch

NHS Trusts could access vital cash injection recycling walking aides.

>WRAP is calling on the nation to help NHS Trusts by returning any unwanted or faulty walking aids for reuse or recycling. The drive is estimated to save an average Trust around £46,000 per year and help reduce waste and carbon linked to a key NHS service.

Many people need walking aides for a relatively short period of time following an accident or period of ill health or may have equipment that a loved one no longer needs. By ensuring that these items are returned and repurposed the cost savings to individual Trust will be significant. Research by climate action NGO WRAP estimates that if just two out of every five devices issued were returned for reuse, an average Trust could save some £46,000 every year, just from reusing these aids.

In addition, walking aids are one of the top 20 medical devices in terms of carbon intensity due to the aluminium and steel in their construction. Refurbishing a typical walking aid uses 87% less carbon than making one from new.

NHS England is committed to reaching net zero and is working to expand existing walking aid refurbishment and reuse schemes, with a target of 40% of ALL walking aids to be refurbished by 2025 (set out in the Delivering a NET Zero Health Service Report).  Doing this it means the NHS could reduce its carbon emissions by 7.4kt, equivalent to 281,397 car trips from London to Bristol.

WRAP has partnered with the NHS to support its drive to recapture these valuable devices and updated the Recycle Now website to help direct as many walking sticks/aids as possible back into active use. The Recycling Locator has details of how people can return their unwanted walking sticks/aids to over 100 NHS hospitals across the UK, or via local collection points – even giving opening times. The number of hospitals (Trusts) involved is expected to grow in the coming months.

Harriet Lamb, CEO WRAP “We are proud to support our amazing NHS and help ensure more equipment can be returned and repurposed so they can benefit more people. I know how often patients ask about returning equipment so this will be a welcome move! Returning walking equipment for cleaning and reuse limits the impact we have on the environment and saves the NHS thousands of pounds. And the good news is, even if the equipment is old or faulty it can still be recycled for scrap metal, which also generates income for the Trust.”

Chris Gormley, Chief Sustainability Officer, Greener NHS “As part of our commitment to reach net zero, NHS England is expanding existing walking aid refurbishment and reuse schemes - with the aim of 40 percent of all walking aids to be refurbished. Many Allied Health Professionals are already doing fantastic work to support patients and their families who no longer require walking aids to return equipment for testing, refurbishment, and reuse.


Publication date: 27/11/2023


This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2022-01-31