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GlaxoSmithKline 'complete the cycle' Inhaler Recycling and Recovery Scheme now accessible UK-wide

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Innovative environmentally friendly Scheme now accessible within three miles of almost 75% of the UK population

The first ever UK-wide inhaler recycling and recovery scheme - Complete the Cycle - for all inhalers used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is being launched by UK-based GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). 73 million inhalers are used in the UK every year1 and over 63% are placed in domestic bins after use2. Complete the Cycle enables patients to play their part in dramatically reducing the impact on the environment caused by the landfill disposal of inhalers by simply returning them to a participating pharmacy*.

A smaller scale GSK pilot scheme showed that Complete the Cycle offers benefits for patients beyond recycling. 29% of inhalers returned were not empty,1 providing opportunities for pharmacists to help patients improve how they use their inhaler, manage their condition and help reduce medicine wastage.

Commented Monica Fletcher, Chief Executive of Education for Health and Chair of the European Lung Foundation:

“The GSK Complete the Cycle Inhaler Recycling and Recovery Scheme is really straightforward for patients and does more than provide a solution for patients to responsibly dispose of their inhalers. The Scheme creates additional opportunities for enhancing the management of respiratory disease, for example, when a patient returns an inhaler, the pharmacist has a chance to discuss the patient’s medicine usage and technique. If necessary, they can link that patient back to their nurse or GP for further discussion about their treatment. It is really important that nurses encourage their patients to return their used inhalers to unlock the potential for improved patient outcomes and contribute to a greener environment for everyone.”

Complete the Cycle is now available in over 1,300 pharmacies within three miles of almost 75% of the UK population1and is supported by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and Recycle Now, part of WRAP (Waste & Resource Action Programme)**. Local participating pharmacies can be found by visiting

Currently 66% of respiratory patients visit their pharmacy at least every two months with repeat prescriptions2. While most local authorities can recycle certain plastics, some inhaler components contain plastics which are not readily recycled in council schemes. Consequently 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 gas canisters become pierced or crushed and the propellant released. If every inhaler-user in the UK returned all their inhalers for one year, this would save 512,330 tonnes of CO2eq - equivalent to driving a VW 1.4 TSI Golf car around the world 88,606 times1.

GSK is the first company in the world to set up inhaler recycling schemes in a number of countries.  This initiative is only one part of GSK’s long-term commitment to be carbon neutral across our whole value chain – from raw material purchase to product use and disposal – by 2050.  By working together with patients, pharmacies and healthcare professionals, GSK aims to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions, moving towards a more environmentally sustainable treatment of respiratory disease.

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