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November 2021

Postal inhaler recycling scheme expanded

A pilot scheme to enable patients to recycle their empty, unwanted or out of date inhalers has been deemed such a success that it is to be expanded.

Initially only available in one NHS Trust in Leicestershire, the Take AIR (Action for Inhaler Recycling) scheme is to be rolled out to other hospitals in the county, in response to increasing demand for recycling.

Pharmaceutical company Chiesi is also creating a toolkit, so that other areas of the UK can use the lessons learned by the company and its partners to help implement similar schemes in their local areas.

Take AIR was the first scheme to allow people to dispose of and recycle their old inhalers through the post, enabling patients with respiratory illnesses to play their part in helping to reduce the impact of inhalers on the environment.

Across the UK, over 70 million inhaler devices are used each year and almost all of these will be disposed of in municipal waste sites and landfill.

Inhalers comprise several components, including plastic casings, aluminium canisters, and propellant gases which are known greenhouse gases. Through the Take AIR scheme, many of the components are recovered and recycled and non-recyclable materials are destroyed through a process called energy-from-waste. Diverting the inhalers from municipal waste sites will help to prevent the leakage of the greenhouse gas propellant into the atmosphere.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of all pharmacies across the Leicester, Leicestershire, and Rutland (LLR) area are participating and supplying envelopes to patients, that can be used for any inhaler, of any brand and any type.

The scheme is now just over halfway through the pilot period and to date nearly 7,000 inhalers have been successfully diverted from municipal waste and recycled.

Practice Nurse 2021;51(9):9