Drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline LLC expects to recover at least 100,000 empty respiratory inhalers in the initial year of a first-of-its-kind nationwide recycling program in the U.S.
The Complete the Cycle program was rolled out Oct. 24 to 2,000 pharmacies in 31 cities.
“It is good for our patients, good for pharmacists and good for the environment. It helps everyone reduce waste to landfills,” said Nathan Rohner, U.S. environmental sustainability manager for GSK.
The launch came after a one-year pilot program at 53 pharmacies in five cities collected 2,700 inhalers,
GSK has a similar program in the United Kingdom and a pilot inhaler recycling program in Santo Domingo, Chile.
The U.S. program is being administered and managed by Trenton, N.J.-based recycler TerraCycle Inc., which also has a year-old program for recycling clean room garments and gloves in Pleasanton, Calif., with Kimberly-Clark Professional of Roswell, Ga.
“TerraCycle sends the collection boxes and the informational material to the pharmacies,” Rohner said.
The idea to recycle inhalers came from a 2008 survey of U.S. pharmacies.
GSK has signed up about 10 percent of the 20,000 pharmacies in the markets where it has launched the program and expects more to join as word of the program spreads.
“Many stores in the pilot were pretty excited that we rolled out the program,” said Rohner. “They wanted back in when we launched it because it is easy and no-cost.”
Consumers will be able to drop off empty inhalers as they pick up new prescriptions. The pharmacies ship collected inhalers to the Glaxo-contracted recycler, Material Matters Inc. in Asheville, N.C. Material Matters then separates the metal canister from the plastic casing.
Inhalers of all brands with plastic casings can be recycled, not just those sold by GlaxoSmithKline, which is considered the top U.S. seller of respiratory medicines.
The recycled plastics will be used to make products such as garden pots and plastic hangers, Glaxo said.
Rohner said the program supports GSK's goal to reduce its waste sent to landfills by 25 percent by 2015.
“We chose respiratory inhalers because they have recyclable components to them,” Rohner said. “But we will be looking to grow the program” into more products.
GlaxoSmithKline's U.S. headquarters is in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Its parent, GlaxoSmithKline plc, is based in Brentford, England (London).