Get Those Unwanted Medicines And Sharps Off The Farm Safely!

Chances are you've used vaccines and medicines to prevent or treat disease in your cattle. All the medical supplies you use, including sharps such as injection needles and scalpels, eventually become medical waste. How can you store this waste safely and how can you get rid of it?

Safe storage means medical waste is put in containers that are leak-proof, puncture-proof, unbreakable, with a resealable and locking lid, and a carrying handle. Seems like a tall order but commercial containers are available, and in a pinch, you can use paint cans with lids, juice cans if holes are plugged and taped, intact picnic coolers with the valve plugged and taped, or large plastic shipping barrels with locking lids such as those used for pickles and other products. For producers thinking of taking the Quality Starts HereTM verified beef program, there is a new 50-50 cost share federal funding support for equipment, and disposal containers for empty medication bottles are on the list.

Safe storage also means that these containers are locked away so that this waste is not reused by mistake and children don't have access. In some regions you can put this waste out for collection or transport it to a landfill, but in others it is not eligible for pickup and will be refused if delivered to the waste disposal site. This waste is not recyclable.

Your veterinarian may take back your unwanted medicines and sharps. However, your vet requires a certificate from the Ministry of the Environment to do so. Not all clinics have one. Another issue identified by both veterinarians and producers is biosecurity. If you want to take it back, a protocol that will minimize the risk of disease spread via these wastes should be in place and followed.

A direct disposal option does exist in some areas. There are sterilization and incineration companies that can take care of this medical waste. The biosecurity risk is minimized because the items are sterilized or incinerated. The amount of leftover waste going to landfills is cut by over 50%. There is a cost associated with this service that can be claimed as a business expense. This service may be especially handy for those times when large amounts of waste are generated, for example, when calves are processed or pens/herds are on treatment programs for respiratory disease.

For more information about safe storage and responsible disposal of medical waste see our on-line Factsheets:

Safe On-Farm Storage of Unwanted Medicines and Sharps


Responsible Disposal of Unwanted Medicines and Sharps


For more information:
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