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Profit from waste with award-winning schemes

For the second year running, waste and resource management providers have been crowned the most effective solution for NHS Trusts looking to save money.

Online reuse platform Warp It topped the tables in the Best Financial Efficiency category at this year’s Building Better Healthcare awards, while Betts Envirometal triumphed in 2014. The precious metals specialist beat competitors ranging from architectural consultants to product manufacturers with the savings produced through its used x-ray silver recovery process.

Founder of Warp It, Daniel O’Connor, described the pattern as a positive shift in perspective, adding: “Waste management has long been viewed as a disposal solution that comes with a necessary cost, but in this case we have been rewarded not for our sustainability features – which are considerable – but purely on a financial basis. The Warp It and Betts models show that when waste is re-imagined as a resource, it can actually generate an income. At Warp It, we discovered early on that the greatest savings achieved through reuse impact on procurement rather than waste disposal.”

Charlie Betts, Managing Director at Betts Envirometal agrees: “NHS Estates have all been charged with finding ways to be more cost effective, so those wanting to take things a step further have started to look for more creative opportunities. These awards prove that taking simple steps to ensure that contractors offer the best deal – with the best use of resources – will reap dividends, and the result will mean more funding available for frontline services.”

The Warp It reuse network is an online trading platform which works like eBay. It allows staff to check whether anyone in an organisation, or its partners, already has a surplus item available before a new piece of equipment or furniture is procured. Since 2011, Warp It has saved customers £5 million in avoided procurement costs and facilitated the donation of £700,000 of assets to charity. It counts around 30 per cent of the NHS – including the entire NHS Estate in Scotland – as customers.

NHS Tayside signed up to Warp It two years ago and has already achieved over £75,000 in total procurement savings, £10,250 in administrative savings, and a fall in waste disposal costs of £1,450. O’Connor describes these figures as typical, adding: “With our system, savings are a given. We are so confident that we guarantee customers a return of at least five times their investment in one year.”

The winner in 2014, Birmingham-based Betts Envirometal, recovers precious metals such as silver from used medical and industrial x-ray film and other precious metal-bearing waste materials. In 2013, it disposed of 533,200 kgs of used x-ray film on behalf of the NHS Estate, delivering £160,000 in rebates while also helping to reduce storage costs for Trusts.

Betts’ client North Staffordshire Trust had previously worked with a storage company which charged in excess of £1,000 to re-box files after culling. The Trust also incurred a disposal cost of at least £1 per box when pulled out for destruction. Betts provided this service at no cost, while also awarding North Staffordshire a rebate of £1,800 for the recycled film and placing around 4,000 archived records in storage to await their expiry date.

Charlie Betts sums up: “We hope that this award will help NHS Estate managers to recognise the value in the assets they manage. It is easy to imagine the worth of products containing precious metals, yet even these are often sent to hazardous landfill or for incineration. Winning an award such as Best Financial Efficiency highlights the fact that items such as used x-rays, furniture and equipment have a substantial impact and can all help to deliver valuable savings for a cash-strapped NHS.”