‘Purr’fect recycling at Wirral vets raises money for children battling brain tumours

Staff at a vet surgery in West Kirby have found the ‘purr’fect way to raise money for children battling brain tumours while doing their bit for the environment at the same time.

Pet owners in the area are being urged to bring in their empty pet food pouches to Acorn Veterinary Centre in West Kirby from where they will be sent for recycling and turned into money for Ellie’s Fund, an initiative which turns every day rubbish into money for brain tumour research.

Trainee veterinary nurse Kim Riley, of Acorn Veterinary Centre, which is part of Willows Veterinary Group, kick-started the pet food pouch campaign after she discovered her own animal-loving household gets through more than 4,300 plastic food pouches a year.

Instead of them going to waste she decided to put them to good use and discovered Ellie’s Fund, named after Yorkshire teenager Ellie Othick-Bowmaker, whose family have just marked the tenth anniversary of her death, aged 14, on St Valentine’s Day, 2010.

Ellie was given six months to live when in 2007 she was diagnosed with grade four Glioblastoma, a high grade brain tumour, but she survived another three years.

During that time she launched the recycling project which has to date raised more than £62,000 recycling items including pet food pouches, crisp packets, bread bags, disposable gloves, baby food pouches, yoghurt pouches and beauty products packaging.

Kim, 22, who lives in West Kirby, said: “My family has seven cats and two dogs but until a few weeks ago it never struck me how much of our pet food packaging goes to landfill.

“I consider myself pretty conscious of the need to look after our environment and both at Acorn and the Willows group as a whole, we try and strive to limit our carbon footprint.

“And there are so many simple changes we can all make individually.

“I counted the amount of pet food packaging my family gets through at home and found we consumed 84 wet-food packets in a week – that’s 4,368 a year!

“Granted our household has more than the usual amount of pet cats, but even a quarter of that is an awful lot of plastic going to landfill.”

Kim’s colleagues at the practice in Acacia Grove, West Kirby, which was given a major refurbishment and rebuild in 2018, were keen to get behind her campaign to prevent the waste and also help a good cause.

She has set up a pet food pouch collecting station and urges clients and pet owners in general to drop off rinsed out and dried packaging to be sent for recycling.

Kim said: “What’s so brilliant about this scheme is it has a double benefit. We’re drastically reducing waste and at the same time helping a really worthy cause. I was so touched by Ellie‘s heartbreaking story that there was no question we wanted to help further her legacy of raising money to support other children and families whose lives are devastated by this terrible disease.”

Following her death Ellie’s Fund was taken over by her mum, Heather Ophick.

After several years running it, Heather decided to take a step back to spend more time with her family so she asked the Brain Tumour Research Support (BTRS) charity to take on the initiative and its team agreed, ensuring Elli’s dream lives on. BTRS works to find new treatments and potential cures for brain tumours which have now overtaken leukaemia as the biggest cause of cancer childhood deaths in the UK

Heather remains a proud volunteer with the recycling initiative and was thrilled to learn that Kim and the Acorn Vets team want to help.

She said: “Ellie would’ve been over the moon. Although we run the scheme, it wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the huge number of people who collect and donate their recycling to us.

“So it’s a real boost for us to have such an established veterinary practice fighting in our corner. Through them we can potentially get the word out to so many more pet owners to come forward with their empty food pouches.

“I’ll always be grateful that, despite our loss and pain at losing Ellie, in a way she is still fighting on achieving good for others through her name.

“The more her fund continues to grow from strength to strength, the greater her legacy in furthering vital research into brain tumours and preventing others having to endure what she went through.”

According to latest figures more than 102,000 people are estimated to be living with a brain tumour in the UK and almost 11,700 people are diagnosed each year with a primary brain tumour, including 500 children and young people – that’s 32 people every day.

Kim said: “The figures are shocking and the pain these families have to go through is unthinkable. But by just making a tiny change in your daily routine you could help progress research into this disease.

“How it works is that we collect all the empty pouches and donate them to Ellie’s Fund which reaps the proceeds of selling them to a professional recycling company to turn into new products. Money raised goes directly to brain tumour research.“

In the first week of launching the campaign Kim and the Acorn veterinary team collected a kilo of pet food pouches.

Kim said: “When you consider how light just one small pet food pouch is, to collect a kilo in weight within the first week is good going. That’s just from our own staff donations.  Imagine how many we could collect by the public donating their empty packaging too. All we ask is that they quickly clean them by rinsing them out and drying them off on a drainer before handing them in at our surgery reception.

“The more who get involved the more we can do to protect the environment and to help the fight against cancer,” added Kim, who comes from a family of animal lovers.

Her parents Kate and Tim, and brother Aidan, all help care for their seven cats and two dogs, some of which are rescue animals and others hand-reared after being abandoned as kittens.

For more information on Willows Veterinary Group go to www.willowsvetgroup.co.uk

Or Facebook @WillowsVetGroup

For more about the pet food pouch recycling contact the Acorn practice on 0151 625 9916.

To find out more about Ellie’s Fund, go to www.btrs.org.uk

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