A group of eight pharmacies in South Wales are taking part in an inhaler recycling pilot, the first scheme of its kind in Wales.
The project follows a successful year-long trial at the Vale of Neath Pharmacy, near Swansea, in which 1,249 inhalers were returned to the pharmacy for recycling.
The initial trial was set up after results from a survey carried out locally found that 90% of patients were disposing their devices in general waste or plastic recycling bags.
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.
“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,” he said.
“The general consensus was they thought they would be recycled if disposed of in their household recycling, which isn’t the case. So patients did not realise that their method was having a negative impact on the environment.
“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 handle disposal 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 April 2022, the Welsh government announced £2.4m in decarbonisation grants as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions by more than a third by 2030.
There are currently no national-level inhaler recycling schemes in the UK.
In August 2021, The Pharmaceutical Journal reported that NHS England had no plans to introduce an England-wide scheme.
A year later, in August 2022, NHS Scotland announced plans to reduce emissions from medical inhaler propellants by 70% over the next six years as part of its ‘Climate Emergency and Sustainability Strategy 2022–2026′.