Innovative Project to Tackle Veterinary Waste

An innovative project for the recycling and responsible disposal of veterinary medicines is underway, involving pharmaceutical manufacturers, recyclers, and the farming community.

Teat sealants, vaccines, antibiotics and drenches are just a handful of the products that result in an array of waste at the end of the veterinary process. The New Zealand animal pharmaceutical industry, rural recycling schemes and associations are tasked with finding a solution following a directive from the government to take responsibility for this waste. The extent and nature of veterinary medicines, as well as the materials used and what they contain, will lead to some head-scratching on how to manage such a diverse array of products in a sustainable way – with a priority towards recycling them and turning them, where possible, into useful new products.

In July 2019, the New Zealand government announced an ambitious goal to determine certain products as ‘priority products’ under the Waste Minimisation Act, including veterinary medicines. As part of the New Zealand Government’s wider plan to reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in landfills or polluting the environment, it declared six priority products for regulated product stewardship under the Act. These product categories involve plastic packaging, tyres, electrical and electronic products (e-waste) and refrigerants, along with agrichemicals and their containers. Veterinary medicines are included in the ‘agrichemical’ product category. As there is no product stewardship scheme in place for these medicines, the industry is tasked with co-designing a scheme.

This is the first time that the New Zealand government has taken such a hard line on product packaging. The directive puts the onus on importers and manufacturers to take responsibility for their products by ensuring that they can be recycled or, at least, safely disposed of. The Act’s associated guidelines direct them to pay for this through a levy for the recovery costs through a not-for-profit product stewardship scheme – whereby a recycling organisation will be tasked with finding the most sustainable solution. Full net costs for stewardship will be proportional to the producer’s market share and ease of reuse or recyclability of their product.

Responsibility is also spread throughout the supply chain – through the distribution, sale and use, to the end-of-life disposal of the products, so all who have a hand in any of these processes wear some of the responsibility. There is no point in determining that the manufacturer or importer bears this solely, as someone at the end of the supply chain will need to take action to enable the recycling of the product.