An audit of veterinary waste management in Durban.
Since 1994, there have been sweeping changes made to South African policy and legislation, including environmental rights for all people, environmental protection and the consideration of sustainability in all activities. A national policy for medical waste management is being developed and guidelines for the South African Veterinary Council are currently being revised. By auditing contemporary veterinary waste management in one of South Africa's largest cities, this study sought to provide appropriate input into these initiatives. As a study area, the Durban Unicity provided the opportunity to audit a large population of veterinary clinics within a relatively short distance of each other arid also the opportunity to ascertain whether waste management practices were dependent on the socio-economic status of the clinics catchment area. A pilot study was used to inform the design of a questionnaire, which was then administered to thirty-two clinics sampled to represent a range in size of clinic, predominant type of patient treated and catchment socio-economic status. Another questionnaire was administered to four waste disposal companies and one veterinary diagnostics laboratory that removed waste for disposal from veterinary practices. The main findings suggest that there is a health risk to staff and the public, due to the incorrect separation, storage, handling and disposal of sharps, anatomical, contaminated domestic and infectious material. Staff at 6.3% of clinics sampled are not provided with any safety equipment. Most veterinarians (63%) as well as two of the five waste disposal companies audited were not aware of their responsibilities in terms of waste management policy and legislation. Sixty nine percent of the practices sampled reported that employees have either never been trained or have not received training in waste management in the past five years. Domestic waste contaminated with other potentially hazardous waste forms 12% of the total waste stream reported by practices. Even though the results indicate that a, few veterinary practices are mismanaging their waste this has the potential negative impact on staff, the public and the environment. The findings of the study would suggest a need for well communicated, enforceable guidelines outlining sustainable veterinary waste management for practices and waste disposal companies. The study highlights the similarities between veterinary and medical waste and the need to consider this in planning an effective waste management strategy. It also provides guidelines for a sustainable approach to veterinary waste management.