I am happy to say that although I haven't made an update post for a few weeks, I have been busy behind the scenes developing my Action Project! I have a few updates including what I will be doing for my project and what it will all entail! The update is long, but I promise it's going to be a fun ride!
When I first got accepted into the Ocean Bridge program, I went in 'guns a blazin' thinking I would change the world- as excited as I was, I got a little over my head thinking about how I needed to develop this HUGE, world altering project as I'm sure many of my fellow Ocean Bridger's have also felt. I thought about making shoreline plastic jewellery from cleanups I would do with my local community. Unfortunately for me, I've never made jewellery in my life, and once I started the deep dive online, I soon realized I didn't have the skill to do something like that... as well as my main idea was to utilize Resin based compounds to develop the pieces, and after attempting many alternative searches to try and get the answer I wanted, I concluded that Resin is actually brutal for our environment and waterways so it wouldn't be in my best interest to try and develop something that was harming the one thing I'm trying to protect...
I kept researching ideas, looking up past Ocean Bridge projects, and felt a little over my head as I wanted my project to showcase my passions, but I didn't quite know how. I wish I could say it came to me in a dream, but after doing some soul searching into what I truly love and care for, I am happy to say that my project is going to merge my two main passions: Veterinary Medicine and Ocean Stewardship! How exactly? Well... as a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT), my job includes varying duties such as blood draws, radiology, anesthesia, assisting in appointments, controlled drug audits, making prescriptions, client education, nursing...I mean the list goes on (shout out to all my Veterinary staff and support staff! It's an industry full of amazing opportunities but also a lot of hard work!) I went into work one day and realized how much plastic is used on a daily basis within a practice: from IV bags, syringes, needles, prescription bottles, and plastic packaging- our industry utilizes a HUGE amount of plastic. This is a perfect industry to step up and see how we can improve our plastic footprint, or even reduce plastic waste within a practice. Below I have outlined my Action Project and I hope if you are working in the industry, own your own practice, or an animal lover- you can utilize these tools to reduce your plastic footprint and get involved in the conversation surrounding plastic reduction!
My proposal: A Three-Tiered System- Veterinary Hospitals, Veterinary Staff, & The Clients
Veterinary Practices utilize varying plastics on a daily basis. Often times syringes are packaged in sterile plastics, IV bags and lines are made of varying plastic materials, needles, autoclave pouches, etc. are wrapped in some kind of plastic based compound. Here are the goals and what I would like people to think about in the Veterinary practices they are working in:
1) Better recycling methods: are we recycling as much as possible within the clinic? Are we separating varying plastics into appropriate recycling bins or utilizing specialty recycling programs for things like styrofoam?- This is an excellent opportunity to better your plastic footprint as a practice as well as show clients what you are doing as a hospital to go 'greener'.
2) 'Tech Tips': I've met some pretty amazing people in the industry with little 'hacks' or 'tips' they use for certain things which is a huge help for patient comfort as well as efficiency. I'm going to have a section on my blog for 'Tech Tips' where I will be sharing how we can re-use certain plastics in clinic for other uses! Not only will this showcase some great ideas, but it has the potential to save practices from using more plastic! Yay!
Utilize better recycling methods within the Veterinary Industry and demonstrate how to use plastic in clinic for other uses.
Veterinary practices dispense out medications to their patients, however some of these medications are known as 'controlled substances'. These kinds of controlled substances are highly regulated by the government as they have a high risk of abuse or addiction associated with them. The CVBC (College of Veterinarians of British Columbia) recommends for Veterinary practices to complete drug audits weekly, where these medications are counted to ensure there is no unaccounted loss of these substances. (https://www.cvbc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Guide-to-Management-and-Disposal-of-Controlled-Drugs-March-1-2019.pdf)
It is quite simple to count the tablet or capsules of these medications (thank your local Veterinary staff for counting Phenobarbital and any other small tablet medication....this is the true test of patience!). However, for liquid control audits for injectable medications in the hospital I work at, we have been pulling up each medication into a sterile syringe/needle to measure the volume of medication in each vial. I did a small calculation with the control drugs we use within our practice and we are using over 780 syringes and needles per year for control drug audits alone. Not only is this a large volume of plastic, but each audit takes approximately 1 hour to complete and utilizes 2-3 staff at a time.
For my action project I will be implementing a weight-based measurement system where we will no longer need to draw up medications into syringes, and instead will only have to weigh each vial of medication on an accurate scientific gram scale (I'm thinking one of those chemistry lab scales with the wind-breaker style walls to ensure accuracy- how fun!). This will immensely reduce our plastic waste as a practice, as well as streamline audits. This should also in theory decrease any potential loss that may happen from pulling the medications up during an audit i.e. leakage. There will also be no hub loss to account for (some syringes have 'hubs' which is an area that accounts for 0.05ml of solution at the very top of the syringe where the needle is placed on (see image below)- when you do an audit you need to account for this loss as it will add up and could reflect in a loss if not taken into account, when in fact the volume lost is from the hub). I am very excited about this part of my Action Project as it has potential to completely discontinue any use of syringes for audit purposes.
Utilize a weight based measurement system to discontinue use of plastic syringes and needles for control substance audits.
The Clients: Pill Vial Recycling Program
This was my main idea when I was thinking about an action project involving Veterinary Medicine. We are always prescribing out medications to patients or providing refills of medications. Each time a prescription if filled, the client gets their pet's medication in a plastic pill vial with instructions of how to medicate their pets. Every prescription involves dispensing a new pill vial, and personally speaking, I have never seen clients bring back vials for re-use, or seen hospitals attempt to recycle pill vials. Unfortunately I don't have any statistics on the amount of vials we as a hospital use, however I know the number is high and is a main source of plastic use within the practice. So...to get clients involved, I am developing a Recycling Program for clients to either bring back their pill vials for re-use of medications their pets have been on longterm, or clients can bring back pill vials for recycling where we will appropriately sanitize and re-use these vials for other prescriptions. Clients opting to partake in the program will receive a discount on their dispensing fee, and will be able to proudly wave the flag that they are directly involved in reducing their plastic footprint! How awesome is that! This will also open doors to conversations about WHY it's important to care about our plastic footprint. We as humans and pet owners love animals and want nothing but the best for them. We take our cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, horses, cows, you name it, for Veterinary care as we want them to live the best life they can. We can have the same level of care when it comes to marine animals and organisms as well as improve their quality of life by reducing the amount of plastic getting disposed of into our Oceans and waterways.
Involve clients in a Pill Vial Recycling program to reduce plastic use and create conversation surrounding plastic waste.
So far, this is what I have for my project! It's definitely a big goal and a lot of prep, but I think it's sustainable and the goals are realistic for what I'm wanting to accomplish. I don't want my project to only be for the time I'm with Ocean Bridge, and the ability to create this tiered system has the potential to assist in the long term solution of how we can be more mindful of our plastic use within the Veterinary Industry. As the project rolls out, I will be providing updates and if you are working in the industry and have questions feel free to send me a message! It would be awesome to get other hospitals involved!
That's all for now!
Just Keep Swimming :)