A pharmaceutical company has launched a new recycling scheme in pharmacies across the UK in an attempt to reduce the number of plastic injection pen devices ending up in landfills. 

The scheme, named PenCycle, was launched by Novo Nordisk yesterday (1 November) and is being piloted in pharmacies in Greater Manchester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and Greater Glasgow and Clyde, ahead of plans to roll it out nationally in 2022. 

It is currently being run in partnership with Alliance Healthcare, LloydsPharmacy, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and Royal Mail.

The scheme allows patients to return their empty FlexPen and FlexTouch devices — used to dispense insulin and other medications — for recycling through local participating community pharmacies, pre-paid Royal Mail boxes or through a local collection service. 

Any community pharmacy within the three pilot areas can sign up to take part in the ‘first-of-its-kind’ scheme, Novo Nordisk said. 

Participating pharmacies will be sent a PenCycle Starter Pack which will contain practical guidance on the initiative, patient information and materials for patients to take home including return boxes. 

Pharmacies will also receive a PenCycle recycling bin to store full return boxes from patients. 

When the recycling bin is full, community pharmacies should arrange a collection with Alliance Healthcare. 

As part of the recycling process, all pens will be sent to Denmark where the plastic will be recycled into a range of items, such as chairs and lamps, Novo Nordisk explained. 

When announcing the scheme yesterday, Novo Nordisk said it aims to recycle over 150,000 prefilled pens, which it claimed would ensure more than 2 tonnes of plastic material avoids UK landfills.

By 2023, the company hopes the scheme will have prevented over 56 tonnes of plastic waste.

Kevin Birch, chief retail officer at LloydsPharmacy, said that the multiple was ‘delighted’ to be a part of the scheme.  

He said: ‘Reducing plastic waste in our healthcare settings is a key part of our approach. Now, our customers can conveniently return their empty insulin pens when collecting their next prescription - a recycling decision that's easy for them and great for the environment.’

Laura Sims, head of membership for the NPA, said: ‘We’re pleased to be supporting the PenCycle collaboration, and helping our members understand the benefits of the pilot scheme and how to take part. Community pharmacies dispense more than a billion prescription items each year and can greatly increase sustainability through recycling.’

In February, pharmaceutical company Chiesi, launched a new pilot scheme that enabled patients to dispose of and recycle their inhalers through the post.

This came after the Primary Care Respiratory Society (PCRS), published a white paper late last year, calling for better processes and information on how and where to recycle, safely dispose and return inhalers to help ‘reduce landfill, wasted medication and release of harmful propellants and gases’.