As the drying-off period for dairy cows approaches, a recycling initiative headed up by animal health company Zoetis will be doubling down on keeping plastic waste out of landfills.
This autumn marks the second year of a recycling initiative led by Zoetis that aims to significantly reduce the number of plastic Teatseal tubes going to waste.
Teatseal is a non-antibiotic product injected into cows’ teats at drying-off to prevent mastitis infection occurring.
It has become the highest selling treatment product of its type, helping farmers better manage dry season and early spring mastitis, without the need for antibiotics.
Natalie Bunn, dairy product manager for Zoetis, says in cooperation with farm plastics recycling company Plasback, efforts to gather some of the five million estimated Teatseal tubes often discarded have proven successful.
“We managed to get 1.6 million tubes recycled last year, a great effort for a first-time initiative, and are very confident that now more farmers know about the scheme we can improve that considerably this season,” Bunn says.
Farmers have the option to take the used tubes back to their participating vet clinic, where they are placed in special bags for recycling, or vet and technician teams administering Teatseal take the waste back with them.
Adrian Evans of Southern Wairarapa Veterinary Services says he and his colleagues had become very conscious of the amount of plastic generated by a single herd’s treatment and welcomed the opportunity to participate in a scheme to prevent it heading to landfill.
“It is welcomed by us, and by our farmer clients. Everyone is aware of waste these days, but not all companies try to do something about it, so it is a feather in the cap for Zoetis,” Evans says.
Last year’s efforts pulled the equivalent of 12,744kg of plastics from landfill and provided a high-quality polyethylene source of recycled plastic material for reprocessing.
Plasback commercial manager Neal Shaw says he was encouraged by the success of the scheme.
Plasback has taken the project a step further with Zoetis providing recycling wheelie bins to over 100 vet clinics around the country. That means they can now accept the plastic “pillow packs” used to hold Zoetis livestock vaccines.
“These also contribute a valuable recycled source, often used for recycled plastic pallets. It is great to have a business like Zoetis participating, everyone wants to recycle but not all want to take the initiative,” Shaw says.
He says agricultural plastic recycling can be more challenging, given the diffuse nature of farms, but having the engagement with veterinary clinics has helped centralise collection of a significant waste stream from farms.
Teatseal volumes have grown significantly in recent years as farmers have become more conscious of avoiding overuse of antibiotics in dry cow treatment, given the risks of encouraging resistance.
Its inert nature means it can be safely handled and recycled with minimum cleaning required prior to processing.
Evans says along with the adoption of bamboo-based teat wipes, the recycling scheme for Teatseal is making the drying off process more environmentally conscious one.
“We have a couple of our practice staff who have really taken environmental sustainability by the horns, including conducting a carbon audit of the business. It’s a challenging exercise to assess your business, but something that has a really positive impact on everyone,” Evans says.
Bunn says Zoetis is committed to building the Teatseal and livestock vaccine recycling scheme’s success as the company continues to explore opportunities to help farmers reduce the waste impact of their animal health care treatments.
This article first appeared in the May 2022 issue of Dairy Farmer.