A record number of farmers – 525 in total – travelled to Listowel, Co. Kerry, with their hazardous waste last Saturday (November 4).
Speaking to AgriLand, the EPA’s Shane Colgan stated that 200 would have been a good number at a collection; 300 would be very busy; but 525 was a record.
The resource efficiency manager added that 20t of engine oil and a full lorry of veterinary medicines were collected on the day.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are three main reasons why farmers are keen to get rid of their waste. These include: safety; keeping the farmyard clean and tidy; and cross compliance.
Great result, and all credit to EPA and the individual farmers. But our concern in with the veterinary medicine wastes. What happens elsewhere?
Most probably just disappears, as is the way of farmers and the lack of diligence of the EA for whom agriculture and clinical/healthcare wastes including sharps and veterinary medicines falls through the net. But this is important, and arrangements should be put in place to improve safe disposal practices.
Regrettably, safe disposal practices is a tad tricky in most situations. As with human medical practice, though unwanted medicines disposal is important this is a drop in the ocean compared to the quantity of drugs administered, as tablets and capsules, as creams and pastes, injections and infusions. In every case, almost all of the administered dose will be excreted unchanged or mixed with a possibly large number of metabolites, the biological and environmental impact of which is probably unknown.
We excrete most of this into the loo, to sewage systems designed by the Victorians and poorly efficient are degrading pharma residues, and certainly not designed for that purpose. Down of the farm there is nothing so good as that; what is administered is excreted , directly to land.
And sharps? Every veterinary surgery will have scars bins available though I suspect it is rare that these are taken off-site for field (farm) work. And I am sure no farmer will have a sharps bin to disposal of their sharps, though quite likely the amount of stars is actually small and they may use auto-injectors and/or share needles between an entire herd unconcerned about infection and cross-infection risks.