UK veterinary group, VetPartners, has launched its first major environmental project by recycling PPE used in practices during the coronavirus pandemic.
VetPartners is trialling zero waste boxes for PPE at 130 of its largest sites across the UK.
The boxes are provided by TerraCycle, a company specialising in hard-to-recycle waste, and all types of PPE, including masks, gloves and aprons worn by clinical team members when treating patients, can be disposed of in the boxes as long as they are not contaminated with animal, pharmaceutical or liquid waste.
Once full, the boxes, which are themselves recyclable, are collected and quarantined for 72 hours to ensure they are Covid-safe, before the contents are separated into their 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.
Some 140 of the UK’s most trusted and respected small animal, equine, farm and mixed veterinary practices are part of VetPartners, with 5,514 employees working in more than 400 sites.
By purchasing the boxes as a group, rather than as individual practices, VetPartners has been able to negotiate a lower price with TerraCycle, making the boxes cost-effective as well as environmentally friendly.
If the trial goes well, the group, which has its headquarters in York, will roll out the boxes to more practices to help them recycle their PPE.
Among the VetPartners practices trialling the boxes are Beechwood Vets in Leeds, Westway Vets in Newcastle, Minster Vets in York, Liphook Equine Hospital in Hampshire, Rainbow Equine Hospital in Malton, Willows Veterinary Group in Cheshire and Haven Vets in Hull.
The initiative is part of wider sustainability goals at VetPartners, which is preparing to launch its first sustainability strategy, setting out a series of five-year targets to be more environmentally friendly.
VetPartners Sustainability Manager Dr Hannah James is overseeing the project and has received positive feedback from practices.
Dr James said: “To protect our colleagues and clients, we’ve strengthened our PPE policies in practices. While this reduces the risk of Covid-19 transmission, it unfortunately means that we’re using an increased amount of disposable PPE, which can’t be recycled in standard recycle bins.
“To tackle this issue, we’ve sent practices a TerraCycle Zero Waste box which they can use to recycle the PPE. When items of PPE are disposed of via general waste bins, they’re either incinerated or sent to landfill. When they go into a Zero Waste box, they’re sent to TerraCycle, who separate them into their component materials and reprocess them into new materials which are used in manufacturing and construction, or compost them to produce fertile soil for growing plants.
“The initial response from practices has been really positive. Lots of vets and nurses had been contacting us with concerns about the environmental impact of using so much single use plastic, and they were pleased to hear that it will now be recycled.
“Many people at VetPartners are incredibly passionate about sustainability, so I think the Zero Waste boxes will be well received.”
The VetPartners sustainability strategy will be launched at the end of this year, and one of its key aims is to reduce the amount of waste produced and ensure more is reused or recycled over the next five years.
Dr James added: “There’s been a big push within the veterinary sector in recent years to recognise the vital role that we can play in transitioning to a more sustainable economy. Veterinary professionals are passionate about animal welfare, and often by extension the natural world – and they’ve got valuable expertise in really key areas such as regenerative farming and sustainable medicine.”
For media enquiries, please contact Amanda Little, VetPartners Senior PR and Communications Manager, on 07970 198 492 or email firstname.lastname@example.org