Community pharmacies in Leicestershire are taking part in a new pilot scheme that enables patients to dispose of and recycle their inhalers through the post.

The scheme, called Take AIR (Take Action for Inhaler Recycling) and developed and funded by pharmaceutical company Chiesi, will run for 12 months in hospitals and community pharmacies across the Leicester, Leicestershire, and Rutland area before being evaluated.

Patients who wish to take part in the pilot can ask their local pharmacist for a pre-paid postage envelope to recycle up to four empty, unwanted, or out-of-date inhalers of any brand and type.

This comes 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’.

According to the British Lung Foundation and Recycle Now there are 12.5 million people in the UK currently living with a respiratory illness, and 73 million inhalers are used annually.

Commenting on the pilot, Dr Anna Murphy, consultant respiratory pharmacist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said ‘We are proud to support the Chiesi Limited scheme alongside the Local Pharmaceutical Committee for Leicestershire & Rutland, to bring this innovative scheme to the people of Leicestershire.

‘We all want to do our bit to help the environment and at this current time, with many of us wanting to limit how often we go into closed spaces, a postal-based scheme is a great way for people in the area to easily recycle their used inhalers.’

According to Chiesi, the Take AIR scheme will recycle and reuse the aluminium canisters from inhalers, while the plastic components will be recycled and put back into the plastic supply chain.

Any remaining propellant gas will be extracted and reused in items such as fridges and air conditioning units, Chiesi said, while non-recyclable materials will be converted into energy through an energy-from-waste process.