BACKING INHALER recycling scheme to protect environment

boots inhalerPeople in Denton who use inhalers to treat conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are amongst the first in the world to be able to access an innovative new scheme that allows them to recycle them at Boots.  

Complete the Cycle is the first ever UK-wide inhaler recycling and recovery scheme for all inhalers, run by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in partnership with local pharmacies across the UK. By simply returning their inhalers to a participating pharmacy, people can play their part in dramatically reducing the impact on the environment caused by the landfill disposal of inhalers.

73 million inhalers are used in the UK every year1 and over 63% are placed in domestic bins after use. While most local authorities can recycle certain plastics, some inhaler components contain plastics which are not readily recycled in council schemes. Consequently most respiratory inhalers are disposed of in landfill, which is harmful to the environment – not just in material waste but also in greenhouse gas emissions should the gas canisters become pierced or crushed and the propellant released.

Denton & Reddish MP Andrew Gwynne, who visited the local Boots UK pharmacy to see the scheme in action, said:

“I am delighted to promote this important scheme to help reduce the amount of inhalers that end up in landfill. The number that are currently thrown away with domestic rubbish is quite staggering and the Complete the Cycle scheme should deliver huge environmental benefits, as well as providing pharmacists with an opportunity to help minimise medicines waste through improved patient contact.”

If every inhaler-user in the UK returned all their inhalers for one year, this would save 512,330 tonnes of CO2eq – this saving would allow a VW 1.4TSI Golf car to be driven around the world 88,606 times.It is estimated that over half a million people live with respiratory conditions in the North West.

Angela Chalmers, Boots UK Pharmacist, commented:

Boots pharmacists already have regular conversations with patients living with asthma and the Complete the Cycle Scheme creates new opportunities to provide improved support and guidance. Pharmacies are at the heart of local communities and through this initiative, they are well placed to help patients enhance the management of their condition by giving them advice on how to use their medicine appropriately and optimise their inhaler technique as well playing their part in reducing the impact on the environment caused by the landfill disposal of inhalers.”

Patients can return their used inhalers when picking up a prescription from their pharmacist. Inhalers are collected in a box behind the pharmacy counter which is collected when full and taken to a central depot for onward recycling.

Through the Complete the Cycle Scheme, most of the inhaler materials are recycled and used by companies who make items from recycled plastics and aluminium. Any waste which cannot be recycled can be ‘recovered’ or converted into electricity or heat using the waste to energy process.

As well as preventing carbon dioxide emissions, the Complete the Cycle scheme can help patients to interact with healthcare professionals to enable them to get the best out of their medicines. Evaluation of the pilot scheme showed that 29% of inhalers returned were not emptyproviding opportunities for pharmacists to talk to patients and help them improve how they use their inhalers, manage their condition and help reduce medicine wastage. Currently 66% of respiratory patients visit their pharmacy at least every two months with repeat prescriptions.


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