Inhaler take back scheme launched in Scotland

April 24, 2012

Innovative environmentally-friendly disposal scheme comes to The Co-operative Pharmacy throughout Scotland

People in Scotland who use respiratory inhalers to treat their asthma and COPD can, for the first time, take steps to reduce their carbon footprint by returning their inhalers to a local Co-operative Pharmacy for recycling.

Complete the Cycle, is an innovative respiratory inhaler take back scheme run by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and supported by TerraCycle UK and participating pharmacies, which aims to dramatically reduce the environmental impacts associated with disposing of respiratory inhalers commonly used to treat asthma and COPD.

The scheme was originally piloted for over six months in 40 of The Co-operative Pharmacy branches in Spring 2011 and since last November, has been operating successfully in an additional 160 Co-operative pharmacies in the south and west of England and all of Wales. The scheme is now being launched in Scotland to 65 pharmacies.* Since the start of the pilot, approximately 20,000 respiratory inhalers, or six per cent of those that would normally be used and disposed of in the period, were returned, preventing the release of the inhaler propellant, which is a greenhouse gas, into the environment. The amount of propellant saved is equivalent to preventing the release of around 114 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), which equates to  20 trips around the world in a 1.4 VW Golf.

Gary Ilbrey, Commercial Development Manager at GSK commented: “We are delighted that we have been able to extend this successful take back scheme to cover Scotland and to now include inhalers made by other manufacturers besides GSK. At GSK we take environmental sustainability very seriously and have targets of a 25 per cent reduction in our overall carbon footprint across the value chain by 2020. This scheme forms part of that commitment."

Fiona Caplan-Dean, Clinical Services Manager at The Co-operative Pharmacy, said: “As a responsible and ethical business it is important to take a lead on sustainable initiatives, so we are delighted to be able to offer this simple yet effective service to our customers, and believe together we can make an important difference to our environment.”

Chris Baker, General Manager at TerraCycle UK said: “We are all very familiar with the idea of recycling consumer goods such as plastics or glass, but we often forget that so many things we use create waste. Complete the Cycle encourages gives all people using respiratory inhalers the chance to do even more for the environment.”

The extended service will be available from today (Monday 23 April) at The Co-operative Pharmacy in 65 branches across Scotland.

Additional Information:

When a patient visits a participating store and is dispensed a respiratory inhaler, he or she will be told that the Pharmacy offers an inhaler takeback scheme, where over 80% of inhalers can be recycled and will be encouraged to return it for when needing a repeat prescription. When an inhaler is returned to the pharmacy it will be placed in a specially designed recycling box as supplied by TerraCycle UK. The box will be returned to TerraCycle UK via courier when full. Once the inhalers reach the TerraCycle UK facility in Essex, they will be processed and sorted into material type. The plastics will remain on site for further processing, after which the recycled components will be sold on for use in new products. The recovered aerosol will be sent to a specialist company who use compaction and gas-liquid separation in order to recycle the metal components and collect any remaining liquid or propellant gas. The gas is then used as a replacement fuel in high temperature incinerators and cement kilns and no part of the aerosol container goes to landfill. The blister strip in the dry powder devices which previously contained medically active ingredients and the remaining 20% of respiratory inhalers will then be treated by a specialist process in accordance with clinical guidelines, which may include waste to energy.

* Please see the attached branch list for participating pharmacies.

About our partner pharmacies
The Co-operative Pharmacy – part of The Co-operative Group – is the UK’s third largest pharmacy chain with nearly 800 branches.

The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest mutual business, owned not by private shareholders but by over seven million consumers.  It is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer and a major financial services provider, operating The Co-operative Bank and The Co-operative Insurance. Among its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider, the third largest pharmacy chain and one of Britain’s largest farming operations. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies over 50 commitments in these areas.

The Group operates 4,800 retail trading outlets, employs more than 100,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £13bn.  Further information is available at

About TerraCycle
TerraCycle’s purpose is to eliminate the idea of waste by creating national recycling systems for the previously non-recyclable. The process starts by offering collect programmes (many of them free) to collect your waste and then convert the collected waste into a wide range of products and materials. With over 14 million people collecting waste in 11 countries billions of pieces of waste have been either upcycled or recycled into over 1,500 various products available at major retailers ranging from Walmart to Whole Foods Market.

About GSK
One of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, GSK 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


Contact Details:

Alex Wilson
Senior Public Relations Officer - Pharmacy
The Co-operative Group
0161 2663416

Craig Noonan
PR Manager – Specialist Retail
The Co-operative Group
0161 266 3589