The UK’s first free recycling initiative for injection pens used by people with diabetes, obesity and growth disorders has now been rolled out nationally by pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.
The rollout follows a pilot, launched in November 2021, which ran across 13 clinical commissioning groups in Greater Manchester and Leicestershire and Rutland, as well as in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board, and led to more than 15,000 of Novo Nordisk’s pre-filled FlexPen and FlexTouch devices, which are used to dispense insulin and other medications, being recycled.
According to a press release published by Novo Nordisk on 16 October 2022, 2,500 pharmacies are now taking part in the scheme, after signing up to offer PenCycle for free, and a further 1,000 are expected to have signed up by the end of 2022.
Participating pharmacies are sent practical guidance on the initiative, patient information and materials for patients to take home. These include a return box, which patients can fill with 12 used pen devices at home — with the needle removed — before being returned, either to the pharmacy, by post or, for people on growth hormone treatment, via an at-home collection.
As a circular initiative, the pens are returned to Denmark, where the plastic is then recycled into a range of items, such as chairs, lamps and other glassware.
Novo Nordisk said that up to 85% of the materials in every pen returned to Novo Nordisk are recycled and, as PenCycle becomes “the household norm” across the UK, it would prevent up to 12 tonnes of plastic waste by the end of 2023.
The recycling scheme is being run in partnership with Alliance Healthcare, LloydsPharmacy and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).
A spokesperson for Boots said: “We were proud to be the first community pharmacy in the UK to launch PenCycle in stores, which will help our patients recycle their empty plastic pre-filled injection pen devices.
“It has been launched as part of our wider commitment to sustainability and compliments our Recycle at Boots scheme, which is designed for ‘hard-to-recycle’ beauty, health and wellness product packaging.
“We encourage other pharmacies to sign up to PenCycle too, to make it even more accessible for patients.”
A spokesperson for the NPA said it was “pleased” to see the “pioneering” recycling initiative go nationwide.
“It is something that we supported in the pilot phase and we will certainly be encouraging our members to take part.
“Recycling is one of many ways in which pharmacies can look after the environment and this scheme makes it simple.”