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Welsh inhaler recycling scheme launched

20 Dec 2022 3 minute read
Asthma inhaler. Photo by InspiredImages from Pixabay

A scheme to encourage people to recycle their used inhalers will launch in South Wales and be the first of its kind.

Eight pharmacies will take part in the pilot after a survey found most patients didn’t realise the harmful effects on the environment when disposing inhalers in household waste.

Results from the survey found that 90% of patients were disposing their devices in general waste or plastic recycling bags.

But a successful year long trial carried out at the Vale of Neath Pharmacy, near Swansea, saw 1,249 inhalers returned to the pharmacy for recycling.

The scheme has been set up by Niki Watts, lead pharmacist at the Upper Valleys Cluster, which covers four general practices in the Swansea Bay Health Board area, who was part of the original trial.


Niki Watts said: “I ran a survey to find out why patients weren’t dropping their recyclers to the pharmacy because just two were returned in a few months.

“The general consensus was they thought they would be recycled if disposed of in their household recycling, which isn’t the case.

“We educated patients on this and it has proved very effective in what we’re trying to achieve with recycling inhalers.”

Stickers will be placed on inhalers given to patients across the eight participating pharmacies, encouraging patients to return their inhalers to the pharmacy at the end of their use.

A waste management company will then dispose of the inhalers, with the metal and plastic parts sent for recycling and any unused gases reused in refrigeration equipment.


If successful, the scheme could be expanded across Wales.

Oliver Newman, pharmacy senior project manager at Swansea Bay Health Board, said: “We’re hoping to roll out to other clusters within our own health board dependent on securing additional funding.

“The results of our project are going to be fundamental in assisting the Welsh government’s decision for inhaler recycling opportunities across Wales.”

In an effort to reduce carbon emissions, the Welsh Government has this year announced £2.4m in decarbonisation grants.

NHS Scotland has announced plans to reduce emissions from medical inhaler propellants by 70% over the next six years as part of their new climate emergency strategy.

There are currently no national-level inhaler recycling schemes in the UK and it was reported in 2021 that NHS England has no plans to introduce a similar scheme.

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1 year ago

What is really needed with respect to inhalers is the ability to obtain them OTC as happens in more enlightened countries. I fight for breath daily because I refuse to go through the monthly comedy of begging for a repeat prescription and being interrogated, nagged and patronised by an “asthma nurse” just so I can obtain some Ventolin.

1 year ago
Reply to  Sorgina

Just flogging them OTC leads to abuse by people who don’t really need them. By attending an asthma clinic you will be prescribed a specification that will best deal with your particular condition. That remedy will then be available on a repeat prescription which you can call off on line and collect a few days later. Lot easier than visiting your local clinic/health centre every 4 weeks or so. You should also be able to get periodic checkups to ensure that your condition hasn’t varied or, if it has, a modified prescription gets issued. I’ve been on this system for… Read more »

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