What to do with
All used inhalers should be returned to a pharmacy to be disposed of safely.
They can be disposed of by the pharmacist with other drugs waste, this is then thermally treated to destroy the greenhouse gases. This environmentally safe disposal route is available at all pharmacies and is paid for by NHS England.
Types of inhalers and how they are recycled
There are two main types of inhaler, those using pressurised canisters, known as Metered Dose Inhalers or pMDI, and powder inhalers, known as Dry Powder Inhalers or DPI.
The propellants used in pressurised canister inhalers are powerful greenhouse gases. Even after the inhaler is spent significant amounts of these environmentally damaging gases remain in the canister.
While these gases can be extracted cleaned and reused in industrial equipment, such as air conditioning systems, they are being phased out of use in most applications because of their environmental impacts.
The only environmentally safe way to dispose of them is through thermal treatment, such as incineration. Steel and aluminium may be recovered and recycled at some incinerators.
- Approximately 73 million inhalers are used in the UK every year*
- Landfill disposal of inhalers is harmful to the environment both in material waste and in greenhouse gas emissions as the residual gas from canisters is released to the atmosphere.
- If every inhaler-user in the UK returned all their inhalers for one year, this could save 512,330 tonnes of CO2eq - the same as a VW Golf car being driven around the world 88,606 times*