In February 2011 GlaxoSmithKline and the Cooperative Pharmacy in partnership with TerraCycle UK launched the first respiratory inhaler recycling programme in Europe. Forty Cooperative pharmacies across South Wales and the South East of England piloted the programme for an initial six months. While the pharmacies encouraged patients to drop off their GSK inhalers at their store, TerraCycle UK recycled every element of the inhaler, thus preventing the inhaler's propellant, a powerful greenhouse gas, from being released into the environment. After proving a huge success the project was extended to 200 Cooperative pharmacies from November 2011.
During the pilot phase 6000 inhalers were dropped off at the participating Cooperative pharmacies, which is around 10% of inhalers usually used and disposed off in a six month time period. The amount of propellant recycled from these 6000 GSK inhalers is equivalent to 35 tonnes of carbon dioxide prevented from being released into the atmosphere which again is equivalent to the amount released when driving an average sized car around the world six times.
Approximately, 35 million GSK inhalers are used and disposed of in the UK every year creating around 450 tonnes of landfill waste. The introduction of the scheme in 200 Cooperative pharmacies can save around 69,000 inhalers from ending up on landfill sites in just oner year.