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“Complete the Cycle” inhaler recycling scheme launched by Pharmacy service

Mark Rhodes

An innovative recovery and recycling scheme for all inhalers usually used by asthma or pulmonary disease patients was launched by Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust today

The scheme run by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) - called Complete the Cycle - already exists in nearly 2,300 community pharmacies across the UK, and allows patients to drop off their old inhalers for recycling at the same time that they pick up their new ones.

The launch event will included talks from Mark Rhodes, Vice President at GSK's Environmental Sustainability Centre of Excellence, Claire Igoe Sustainability and Energy Manager at the Trust, and Simeon Hadebe, our Pharmacy Procurement and Homecare Manager.

We are one of the first in a series of UK trusts to also participate in the scheme. Doctors and nurses will encourage patients on their wards and in outpatient clinics to drop their empty inhalers in dedicated recycling boxes at our hospitals, meaning even more people can play their part in dramatically reducing the environmental impact caused by the landfill disposal of inhalers.

Around 73 million inhalers are used in the UK every year, and over 63 per cent are placed in domestic bins after use. While most local authorities can recycle certain plastics, some inhaler components contain plastics which are not readily recycled in council schemes. Therefore, most respiratory inhalers are disposed of in landfill, which is harmful to the environment - not just in material waste but also in greenhouse gas emissions should the canisters of non-dry powder inhalers still have residual propellant in them when they are crushed.

More than 400,000 inhalers have been collected in the UK since February 2011, giving a CO2 eq saving of over 2,800 tonnes.

If every inhaler user in the UK returned all their inhalers for one year, this would save 512,330 tonnes of CO2eq - this saving would allow a VW 1.4TSI Golf car to be driven around the world 88,606 times.

As well as preventing carbon dioxide emissions, the scheme can help people to get the best out of their medicines. A GSK pilot scheme showed that 29 per cent of inhalers returned were not empty, providing opportunities for doctors to help patients improve how they use their inhaler, manage their condition and help reduce the amount of medicine wasted.

Claire Igoe said: "Previously, all our inhalers were disposed of by incineration. Through introducing this programme the majority of materials will now be recovered, reducing our waste costs, increasing recycling rates and providing a useful collection service for staff and patients. This contributes to the Trust's ambitious sustainability strategy and helps us reduce our carbon footprint."

Michelle Fisher, Pharmacy Returns and Recycling Team Leader said: "We feel the Trust is well placed to make a major contribution to this very worthwhile project.  By encouraging and supporting staff, their families, friends and patients to regularly return their inhalers this Trust can significantly reduce waste, energy and CO2  emissions it produces.

The Pharmacy departments innovative and awarding winning Returns and Recycling Team is well equipped to manage this process. Over 50 wards and departments already have recycling bins for pharmaceuticals.  The team will sort the inhalers, as they already do for all pharmacy waste, and continually look to increase the volume medicines returned and recycled safely."

Mark Rhodes, said: "We're delighted to now be rolling out Complete the Cycle to hospitals. Doctors and nurses in trusts like CMFT are perfectly placed to talk to patients about the importance of recycling their inhalers alongside conversations about next steps for their treatment, for example. We think this will make a real difference to the number of inhalers we can collect and recycle and, in turn, a big impact on the environment."

Launch Team

Richard Hey, Director of Pharmacy;  Mark Rhodes, Vice President at GSK's Environmental Sustainability Centre of Excellence; Michelle Fisher, Pharmacy Returns and Recycling Team Leader; Simeon Hadebe, our Pharmacy Procurement and Homecare Manager; Claire Igoe, Sustainability and Energy Manager at the Trust

Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is a leading provider of specialist healthcare services in Manchester, treating more than a million patients every year. Its eight specialist hospitals (Manchester Royal Infirmary, Saint Mary's Hospital, Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, University Dental Hospital of Manchester, Trafford General, Altrincham and Stretford Memorial) and community services are home to hundreds of world class clinicians and academic staff committed to finding patients the best care and treatments. www.cmft.nhs.uk @CMFTNHS

GSK - one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies - is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.  For further information please visit www.gsk.com