A pilot scheme that recycled asthma inhalers will not be renewed, the manufacturer behind the scheme has said.
Chiesi, which launched the Take AIR (Action for Inhaler Recycling) pilot scheme in February 2021 in community pharmacies and hospitals across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, has said it will not extend the scheme a second time, after it doubled the length of the year-long pilot in 2022.
During its two years of operation, 148 sites enrolled to provide the service, which allowed patients to send empty and unwanted inhalers of any brand and type for recycling in pre-paid envelopes.
During the pilot, pressurised metered-dose inhalers, which made up 77% of all inhalers returned, were dismantled and the component parts recycled where possible. The remaining propellant gas was then extracted for reuse in refrigeration and air conditioning industries. Other inhaler types were incinerated in an ‘energy-from-waste’ facility.
Over the first 12 months of the scheme, 20,049 inhalers were returned by patients. The pilot was then extended for another year until March 2023, by which point, the company said, more than 52,000 inhalers had been recycled in the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland area, along with 305 tonnes of CO2 captured and prevented from being released into the atmosphere.
Despite the success of the scheme, the company said there were currently no plans for Take AIR to be rolled out nationally,
In a statement to The Pharmaceutical Journal on 28 June 2023, Chiesi said: “Take AIR was only ever a pilot scheme [with] the intention from the outset to measure the effectiveness of the scheme, assessing potential long-term feasibility, how it can be best rolled out in other areas and providing any key learnings to interested stakeholders.”
It added: “To facilitate the implementation of similar initiatives by other community pharmacies, local pharmaceutical committees and NHS stakeholders across the UK, Chiesi has produced an implementation toolkit, featuring key findings and lessons learnt from the Take AIR pilot.”
Although the scheme officially ended in March 2023, the company has said it will continue to process any inhalers that are returned in the pre-paid envelopes distributed during the pilot.
It has also launched a grant scheme to help the wider NHS reduce the carbon impact of respiratory care. Any NHS organisation, whether at neighbourhood, place or system level, can apply for a carbon improvement grant, with five grants worth up to £10,000 each on offer.
In August 2021, NHS England said that it had no plans to introduce a national inhaler recycling scheme, despite aims to reduce the NHS’s carbon footprint to net zero by 2040, with an 80% reduction by 2028–2032.