Monday, April 22, 2024

From waste to tulip trays

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What would usually end up in a landfill, is now being repurposed in an effort to reduce farm waste. Farmers bought millions of tubes of Teatseal last season, which is great for reducing the risk of mastitis but it creates a considerable amount of waste. And as council recycling systems are not made to take large volumes of tiny tubes, landfill has been the only option to dispose of it.
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What would usually end up in a landfill, is now being repurposed in an effort to reduce farm waste.

Farmers bought millions of tubes of Teatseal last season, which is great for reducing the risk of mastitis but it creates a considerable amount of waste. And as council recycling systems are not made to take large volumes of tiny tubes, landfill has been the only option to dispose of it.

But a project between Zoetis and Plasback NZ has successfully diverted 1.5 million tubes from landfills in the past three months.

“We were thrilled with the amount we got back,” Zoetis veterinary advisor and New Zealand sustainability lead Kristen Baxter says.

“Almost all the veterinary clinics who purchase Teatseal through us participated and although there wasn’t any cost to the clinic or farmer to participate, it did involve a bit of time and effort to help with sorting the waste.

“We really appreciated the enthusiasm and support towards the trial.”

The trial is part of their sustainability focus at Zoetis, which has been looking at all parts of the business.

“We’ve been making changes to packaging to decrease the amount of waste produced and we’ve changed the wipes that come with Teatseal to a compostable material, but until now we didn’t have a way to recycle the tubes,” she says.

It took Baxter and the team two years to get the project off the ground. They had to develop a completely new system as the only product stewardship programme that has been available for animal health products is a drench drum recycling programme.

“We needed to be able to pick up large volumes of small tubes in a short timeframe because it all happens within a couple of months and then we don’t produce any waste for the rest of the year,” she says.

“So we designed a way to collect the plastic tubes and buckets back from the farmers, although we didn’t get many buckets back as farmers find them useful.”

They could only take the plastic in the recycling bags so the waste had to be sorted before it was collected. Which meant either the farmers, vets or technicians needed to separate it, removing any wipes or gloves and take out any antibiotic tubes as there is no way to deal with residues yet.

To let the recycling build a little, Plasback NZ started collecting after about six to eight weeks. They sent it to Comspec in Christchurch, where it was turned into tulip trays that were sent to Holland, as well as FuturePost in Auckland to make the innovative plastic fence post product that has been developed here.

To meet their requirements under the Waste Minimisation Act set out by the Government, Zoetis has been looking at how they can expand their sustainability efforts into other products as well. The Act aims to reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in landfills or polluting the environment and has identified six priority products for regulated product stewardship, including plastic packaging.

“We’ve had great feedback about the trial and already have ideas how we can scale-up and improve it for next season,” she says.

“We are going to use what we are learning from the Teatseal scheme to extend to other products eventually, as we need to have a plan for product stewardship in the next few years.

“But there are challenges for products like antibiotics, as there isn’t any way to deal with residues yet, so there will definitely need to be a lot of research to find suitable solutions.”

The results from the trial prove progress is happening in the right direction and with a few changes based on the learnings from this year they will roll the scheme out on a larger-scale next year.

“The goal is to get better uptake next year by increasing our marketing and continuing to streamline the process to make it easier for everyone to be involved,” she says.

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