This Veterinary Technology grad is fighting plastic pollution in her industry 

Jocelyn Marsh connects veterinary medicine with ocean stewardship in an effort to save nearly 2.7 million plastic needles and syringes per year from entering the landfill and our waterways. 

Jocelyn Marsh is making waves in environmental activism through her passion for ocean stewardship and small animal medicine. Working part-time as a Veterinary Technology Lab Facilitator at Douglas and as a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) showed her how extreme plastic pollution has become in the industry.  

Enter the Love Our Oceans Project (LOOP). Plastic waste and particles can easily end up in our waterways, posing great risk to marine wildlife and surrounding ecosystems. LOOP addresses this by focusing on the impact of the industry’s plastic waste issue, while creating alternative practices to combat pollution.

LOOP was born from Jocelyn’s participation in the Ocean Bridge Ambassador Program through Ocean Wise, a global environmental charity that started in Vancouver. In 2021, she started this program that connects young adults with ocean conservation efforts. As a part of the program, Jocelyn needed to develop a conservation project to implement in her local community. 

Streams of Action

LOOP approaches sustainability through two streams of action: the pill vial recycling program and a “weight-based audit.” 

“We’re constantly dispensing pill vials for prescriptions,” she explains. “They were a big issue, because we dispense the medication, then just throw the vials in the recycling.” 

Jocelyn notes that reusing existing materials cuts down on more pollution than recycling. She encourages her clients to bring back their pill vials to be reused for their pet’s future prescriptions. “I take it from them, properly disinfect it, and then I use that for future medications. So, we’re ultimately lowering the output of vials.” 

She says that if more veterinary hospitals took on the pill vial recycling program, we could save up to 340,000 vials per year across Canada.  

The weight-based audit addresses the issue of plastic syringe and needle waste.  

Medication audits ensure the appropriate handling, storage and prescription of medicine. By tracking the dosage, veterinarians and doctors can guarantee accurate dosages for their patients. 

However, traditional veterinary medication audits involve drawing up an entire container of liquid medicine into a syringe, measuring the volume and comparing it to the previously recorded volume. Not only is this process time consuming, but it notably increases the number of syringes used. 

In human medicine, a weight-based methodology is used. Instead of using a syringe to measure the volume of a medication, this technique monitors the weight of the product and compares it to the previously recorded weight.  

Jocelyn says moving to a weight-based audit would remove the need to use syringes and thus, cutting down on plastic consumption. 

“There are about 3,500 registered veterinary hospitals across Canada,” she explains. “In a year’s time, if all those hospitals were to switch to the weight-based methodology, we could save about 2.7 million plastic needles and syringes per year.” 

Going Global

Beyond the local community, LOOP’s initiatives have reached a wider audience across Canada and internationally.  

“There was one lady from a small town in Kentucky who emailed me and said that her town didn’t have any recycling,” Jocelyn says. “Even outside of the veterinary hospital, they had no access to recycling. She thought these practices would be great to bring into her community.” 

This year, the Love Our Oceans Project won second place in the Ocean Wise Innovator lab. This is a global competition through Ocean Wise where three winners are chosen for the most innovative projects. This global contest provides funding to ocean conservation and marine innovation projects.  

Through the funding she receives from this program, Jocelyn plans to expand the pill vial recycling program into human pharmacies.  

“It’s really exciting to see how you can grow your ideas and move into other industries.” 

Want to learn more about the Diploma in Veterinary Technology? Check out our VTEC page on the Douglas College website.

Find out more about the Love Our Oceans Project and how you can contribute to ocean conservation efforts on Jocelyn’s website.

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