Practice group VetPartners is to extend a PPE recycling scheme to 300 practice premises following a successful trial.
The group estimates up to two million items of single-use PPE could get a new lease of life through its partnership with TerraCycle, a company that specialises in hard-to-recycle waste. All types of PPE can be recycled – including gloves, aprons and masks – as long as it is not contaminated with animal, pharmaceutical or liquid waste.
Many practices have increased the amount of single-use PPE they are using to protect teams during the COVID-19 pandemic. VetPartners estimates up to 35,000 aprons a month, or 425,000 a year, plus 119,000 gloves a month (1.4 million annually) and 27,000 masks (320,000 a year) can be recycled.
Once full, the boxes are collected and quarantined for 72 hours to ensure they are COVID-safe before contents are separated into individual components for recycling. Plastics and metals can be reprocessed into furniture, garden accessories and playground equipment, while paper and organic fibres can be reprocessed and turned into compost.
VetPartners, which is launching a wider sustainability strategy in January, had trailed the scheme with 130 boxes at its larger locations before rolling it out at 300 sites. Hannah James, who is overseeing the PPE project, said: “The veterinary profession tends to attract caring people who care about animals and that seems to extend to a natural desire to look after the environment as well. The disposal of PPE is very visible and has been a concern to our practice teams.”
Ms James added: “During COVID, we cannot avoid clinical teams wearing more PPE to protect themselves, colleagues and clients. The biggest concern of practices wasn’t about it being uncomfortable or inconvenient, it was about it going into the bin.
“When we’re not in the pandemic, we won’t be using as much single-use, but we will still need to use some for clinical reasons, so we will continue to use the recycling boxes.”
Peter O’Hagan – clinical director at Aireworth Vets in Keighley, where boxes have been well received by team members – said: “Providing a TerraCycle recycling box for PPE gave us all a boost at a time when the team at Aireworth was having to cope with major changes to our normal working practices.
“It has been really well received and eased many of the concerns our team had about the amount of PPE waste we were producing. It has been a really positive step and we are grateful to VetPartners for taking the issue of sustainability seriously.”
Vet Times. (2020). VetPartners implements PPE recycling nationwide [online] Available at: https://www.vettimes.co.uk/news/vetpartners-implements-ppe-recycling-nationwide/ [Accessed 18 Dec. 2020].