VetPartners pledges to recycle two-million items of PPE to help planet - Veterinary Practice
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VetPartners pledges to recycle two-million items of PPE to help planet

The company expects to recycle two-million items of PPE across its practices in 2021 – thanks to the success of a major environmental campaign

The company is the first UK veterinary group to provide zero waste boxes for all of its sites in England, Scotland and Wales to recycle extra PPE used during the pandemic.

After initially providing 130 boxes at its larger locations, the success of the trial has seen VetPartners expand the recycling programme across more than 300 practices. The boxes will continue to be used when the need for PPE decreases after the pandemic.

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, 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 contents are 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.

Practices have increased the amount of single-use PPE being utilised in practices to protect clinical teams during the pandemic.

VetPartners estimates 35,000 aprons a month will end up being recycled, equating to 425,000 a year, along with 119,000 pairs of gloves a month, or 1.4million a year, and 27,000 masks a month or 320,000 a year.

VetPartners sustainability manager Dr Hannah James, who is overseeing the 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.

“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.”

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, making the boxes cost-effective as well as environmentally friendly.

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 were 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.”

Nicole Dyer, clinical director at Ash Tree Vets, which has four sites in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, said:
“We had been trying to improve our sustainability and recycle more as a practice, but that was not possible during COVID as we had to ensure everyone was safe. It is great we have an alternative to PPE going into landfill. It was a big decision by VetPartners to invest in something like this and we are very grateful and we will use them long-term.”

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.

The VetPartners sustainability strategy will be launched this month, 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.

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