Recycle your medicines and save lives

Filed in Blog by on January 14, 2011 14 Comments
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Recycle medicines for Africa

Recycle medicines for Africa

EDITED 12th Aug 2016. Please read this post for the most recent information.

Following on from our story, the truth about wasted medicines, Jane sent me an interesting link.

As you might remember, every year tons of out of date, surplus or redundant medicines are returned each year to pharmacies and GPs. According to the story we published, unwanted medicines cannot be reused or recycled and have to be destroyed in an incinerator.

However, according to the site Jane sent me, it would seem this is not the case!

Inter Care is a registered charity which collects returned medication from GP practices and recycles them to over one hundred health centres in six African countries.

The work by Inter Care means that up to £800 million of valuable medicines can be saved from landfill and incineration in the UK, while being used to help alleviate suffering and save lives in Africa.

On the website you can download information about the medicines they can and cannot re-cycle and even encourage your GP practice to register to start collecting patient returns.

It’s humbling to read that medicines used for illnesses associated with older people in the UK are not needed by African health centres because the average life expectancy is often less than 40 years. Most people living in the poorer African countries simply don’t live long enough to get age-related illnesses.

If you don’t have medicines to donate, Inter Care can reuse stamps, books and vinyl records and will recycle used print cartridges, mobile phones and unwanted jewellery to raise funds.

Send them to

Inter Care
46 The Halfcroft

And just as you’re getting over your Christmas excesses; bear in mind that Medi Stamps make the perfect charitable gift for the person who has everything. Collecting unwanted medicines for recycling is only half the story – there are packaging and postage costs to take into account too. Medi Stamps help cover these costs as it’s currently an average of £24.50 to send a parcel of medicines to Africa.

The new year is a great time to declutter; why not go through your medication and see if there is anything you could donate to Inter Care?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (14)

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  1. Julie Day says:

    This is good. I will keep this in mind for future reference. Thanks Rae.

  2. Sooz says:

    I LOVE this idea, next time I go to the Drs I’ll take them some info about it!

  3. Sandie Roach says:

    This is amazing! Thanks for sharing. I too will keep for future reference.

  4. andrea says:

    Great idea, but not so simple to do.
    During the war in Kosovo and in Bosnia, a lot of medicine collected in Italy has been sent to population. But they were medicines expired.
    It’s more simple, IMHO, give medicins to local associations (Salvation Army, Caritas or similar).

    (Ps : sorry for my ugly english!)

  5. Mrs Green says:

    @Julie Day: @Sooz: @Sandie Roach: thanks ladies and huge thanks to Jane for giving me the heads up on the story.

    @andrea: Thanks for sharing your thoughts Andrea. This scheme does of course need people to send medicines that are still in date, but I wonder if, like food, some medicines are still in fact safe and effective even AFTER the expiry date…

    Grazie per condividere i tuoi pensieri di Andrea. Questo schema ha ovviamente bisogno di persone di inviare i farmaci che sono ancora in data, ma mi chiedo se, come il cibo, alcuni farmaci sono ancora in realtà sicura ed efficace anche dopo la data di scadenza …

  6. Donna says:

    hi I work in a pharmacy and think this a brilliant idea. Is it possible for pharmacies to get involved?

  7. Shredding says:

    Recycling of drug packaging is very difficult due to numerous types of plastics, coated foils and sticky labels well that was until global recycling expert turned his attention to finding a solution. Angus Carnie the expert who invented the recycling process for turning waste toner powder into plastic products such as bases of road cones, security bins and non drip paint. Carnie is also the technical Director of the largest supplier of shredding consoles used mainly in the document shredding industry for the storage of confidential documents prior to secure destruction. The panels of the units are manufactured from recycled wood which has been finely shredded and pressed into panels. The panels are then veneered with whatever wood or colour the customer requires matching the relevant office environment.
    Carnie has now pioneered how to shred the drug packaging and include this material into the panels which can then be made into shredding consoles. Carnie explained it is really like making a toasty but with a slightly different filling!
    Hospitals in particular have huge quantities of drug packaging and confidential documents so it really is a perfect match a waste providing a solution and with the fines for breaching the Data Protection Act now up to £500,000 it is sure to be a welcome solution for businesses connected to the medical industry.

  8. Penelope Cruise says:

    Apparently Intercare only accept drugs that are a minimum of 15 months in date.

  9. Brian says:

    Are out of date drugs better than no drugs if you need them

    • Mrs Green says:

      Hi Brian, I don’t know about the use by date on medicines – you’d have to ask a doctor or pharmacist for advice

  10. Philippa says:

    It would be interesting to have an independent report on that – the trouble is there are so many vested interests. We’ve got far too date obsessed.. I’ve not seen anyone turn into a pumpkin on the dot of 12 because they’ve taken anything past date. I’m sure some things deteriorate faster than others though.

  11. Philippa says:

    Bamboo toothbrushes are sold by Surfers Against Sewage as well as bamboo reusable coffee cups and cutlery and coir dish scrubbers together with other alternatives to plastic..

  12. Philippa says: must be worth a mench. A chance to recycle your unwanted sanitaryware and to find a matching replacement. I fancy a rainbow bathroom… Then you can update with a dual flush loo (unless anyone is modifying old ones). However everyone should know: If it’s yellow let it mellow – if it’s brown flush it down. Just look at the problems that Cape Town has and remember that it could be you because even if it rains it does not mean that the reservoirs are full…

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