A MAJOR project to recycle PPE used in veterinary practices during the pandemic has been hailed a success.
Nearly a tonne of PPE, made up of around 200,000 masks, gloves and aprons worn by clinical team members, which would have been destined for incineration or landfill, has been recycled.
The recycling was organised by VetPartners – the first UK veterinary group to provide zero waste boxes for more than 300 of its sites in England, Scotland and Wales to recycle extra PPE used during the health crisis.
The boxes are provided by TerraCycle, a company specialising in hard-to-recycle waste, and all types of PPE can be disposed of in the boxes as long as they are not contaminated with clinical waste. Once full, the boxes, which are themselves recyclable, are quarantined for 72 hours to ensure they are Covid-safe, before contents are collected by TerraCycle and separated into individual components for recycling.
Materials like plastics and metals are reprocessed into new materials for items such as furniture, garden accessories and playground equipment, and any paper and organic fibres that can’t be reprocessed are turned into compost.
VetPartners piloted the recycling project in 100 of its practices last October, before a further 487 boxes were distributed across its sites between December and March. So far, 797.64kg of PPE – around 0.8 tonnes – has been recycled. That amounts to approximately 200,000 items of PPE.
VetPartners Sustainability Manager Dr Hannah James, who organised the project, said: “It is fantastic to see the figures and realise the positive impact we have had on the environment as the waste has been reprocessed into new materials rather than going into landfill or being incinerated.
“We have had positive feedback from our practice teams welcoming the opportunity to recycle PPE. During the pandemic, practices increased the amount of single-use PPE being utilised as we needed to protect their health and wellbeing, but the impact this would have on the environment was a concern.
“Even after Covid has run its course, we will continue to have the boxes in our practices as there is a budget to continue. Our practices are really embracing sustainability and offering them the TerraCycle boxes for PPE prompted many of them to start looking at other sustainability initiatives as well.”
The initiative is part of wider sustainability goals at VetPartners, which launched its first sustainability strategy entitled Looking Forward Together in January. The strategy commits VetPartners to a range of short and long-term goals that will put sustainability at the heart of everything the company does and reflects its ethos of developing the business in an efficient, ethical and sustainable way.
Dr James will be guest speaker at the VMG-SPVS Congress held virtually on May 13 to 14, in the Sustainability in Practice session on May 14.
VetPartners Sustainability Strategy: Looking Forward Together can be viewed on VetPartners website here: https://vetpartnersgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/VetPartners-Sustainability-Strategy.pdf