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Grundon launches UK-wide inhaler recycling scheme


Grundon launches UK-wide inhaler recycling scheme

Grundon Waste Management has launched what it claims is the UK’s first nationwide inhaler return and recycling scheme.

Inhalers are estimated to account for 4 per cent of all NHS CO2 emissions and, with approximately 73 million inhalers dispensed every year. By 2026, the health service is expected to deliver a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions produced from waste management, according to targets set out in the NHS Clinical Waste Strategy.

Chris Edwards, Grundon’s general manager – technical, said: “Every pressurised metered dose inhaler thrown away is full of hydrofluorocarbon gases – a type of gas known to be over a thousand times worse than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change. This scheme safely captures those gases and repurposes them for use in the refrigeration industry.”

NHS Trusts and community pharmacies which sign up to the new scheme will have dedicated recycling containers for inhalers installed, making it as easy as possible for the public to participate.

Once collected, inhalers will be processed at Grundon’s specialist recycling facility in Ewelme, Oxfordshire, which is capable of handling more than 200,000 inhalers a day.

The nationwide rollout of the return and recycling service follows successful trials with a number of NHS Trusts and Health Boards across England and Wales.

One of these was Swansea Bay University Health Board, which came on board in February, launching a pilot take-back project for inhaler recycling across eight pharmacies, using patient education and promotional material to encourage people to return used or unwanted inhalers to their pharmacy.

Its aim is to recycle 80% of all prescribed inhalers by 2025. Oliver Newman, assistant divisional manager, pharmacy & medicines management at SBUHB, says there has already been a positive response from patients. The Inhaler Recycling Pilot Project used Welsh Government funding to establish the contract with Grundon.

Grundon’s inhaler recycling technology has already been used in two previous projects run by pharmaceutical companies. Take Action for Inhaler Recycling was a Chiesi-funded scheme supported by University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and Leicestershire and Rutland LPC.

Run between February 2021 and February 2023, the scheme saw 52,148 inhalers returned through the post over a 24-month period, and was estimated to have saved the equivalent of 305.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere.

Grundon also worked with GSK on its Complete the Cycle inhaler recycling scheme, which ran for nearly a decade. In 2018 alone over 3 million inhalers were recycled.

Chris Edwards says: “These projects and trials have shown there is a clear willingness to recycle inhalers, but the stumbling block has always been how to fund a nationwide collection, treatment and recycling programme. The financial and environmental incentives to do more are now there, clearly set out in the new NHS Clinical Waste Strategy."

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