Recycle your inhalers!

Filed in Blog, Recycle by on March 18, 2011 11 Comments
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Recycle your inhalers at the Co-Operative

Recycle your inhalers at the Co-Operative

After our stories recently about the 250 tons of out of date, surplus and redundant medicines that are destroyed in an incinerator each year and the slightly more up beat story about the ability to recycle your unwanted medicines to help people in developing countries, I was interested to hear another recycling story shared by one of our facebook fans.

David posted up about the latest initiative between the Co-operative Pharmacy, GlaxoSmithKline and Terracycle.

The three companies have pioneered a initiative to enable patients with respiratory illnesses to recycle their inhalers at 40 participating Co-operative Pharmacies across South Wales and the South of England.

This scheme is the first in Europe and is on trial for six months. Around 35 million inhalers such as Ventolin are used in the UK each year, generating 450 tonnes of waste which ends up in landfill or is incinerated.

The inhalers will be collected in participating Co-Operative pharmacies and collected monthly by Terracycle where different parts of the inhaler will be recycled. The part which still can’t be recycled are the blister strips.

Here’s what happens to the components:


The plastics will remain on site for processing, after which the recycled components will be sold on for use in new products.


The recovered aerosol will be sent to a specialist company who use compaction and gas-liquid separation in order to recycle the metal components and collect any remaining liquid or propellant gas. The gas is then used as a replacement fuel in high temperature incinerators and cement kilns and no part of the aerosol container goes to landfill.

Blister strip

The blister strip which previously contained medically active ingredients will be treated by a specialist process in accordance with clinical guidelines.

There are still quite a lot of unanswered questions i my eyes about what will actually be happening to these inhalers, but I’d love to know what you think about the story!

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 (11)

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  1. Sooz says:

    Recycling inhalors is a great idea – I hope it works! I’ve had to use inhalors all my life , a couple of years ago they changed mine from the one pictured to an all in one plastic thing with dry poweder in and a clicky red bottom, do you know if they’re going to recycle all inhalor types or just the ones with the metal aerosols (which would still be a great thing!)

  2. Susi says:

    This is great news! I do hope they roll it out across the country or at least allow you to post them somewhere. I was disappointed to learn, when I started using inhalers, that they no longer give you just refills and you get the full thing every time. Very wasteful!


  3. Colleen says:

    I agree with Susi, it is a shame that they don’t sell just refills. That would be another one of those stupid germaphobe laws no doubt encouraged by chemical companies in the first place. But it is good to see responsible companies unite and show some initiative by doing their part to reuse and recycle.

  4. A great article. I have never considered the necessity for considering disposal, just as I had no idea of the number of inhalers used.

    I have added a lead in post referencing your post on my Eco-Crap. The word needs to be spread.


  5. Mrs Green says:

    @Sooz: I don’t know Sooz; it might be worth giving the Co-op a ring and seeing what they say.

    @Susi: A postal service would be great, wouldn’t it. Let’s hope the trial is successful enough to warrant them expanding their scheme.

    @Colleen: I agree a refill would be a good option. Maybe if someone could make the connection between asthma and possible pollution cause partly by landfill it might make a difference πŸ˜‰

    @Argentum Vulgaris: Thank you Sir; all help in spreading the word appreciated…

  6. Cate B says:

    I went to my local co-op pharmacy in Bristol and they neither knew about this pilot nor seemed particularly interested. I just hope the trial is rolled out nationwide.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @Cate B: That’s a shame Cate – thanks for letting us know; I wonder if anyone else has tried this …

  8. Fiona says:

    I just checked the link to the Co-op site to find the participating stores and it’s not there anymoere. I could find any mention of the scheme elsewhere on the site. Does anyone know anything aboutthis?

  9. donella says:

    so how do i find out which chemists are running this pilot? the link above doesnt work

  10. Jane says:

    @donella: Email Glaxo Smith Kline and ask? Or search Corporate Responsibility on their website? I couldn’t find anything re this on the Coop site. Of course this is the www!

  11. Jane says:

    Publicity from February 2013 including a search facility for your local participating chemist.

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