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    Breathing new life into recycled asthma inhalers

    Over six million asthma inhalers are dispensed in South Africa annually, and all these inhalers have an environmental impact.
    Source: Supplied. Chief executive officer of Cipla, Paul Miller.
    Source: Supplied. Chief executive officer of Cipla, Paul Miller.

    Many inhalers – considered medical waste – are not disposed of correctly, and simply discarded with domestic waste. Even when “empty”, these plastic inhalers can still have residual gases in them which are harmful to the environment.

    Pharmaceutical company, Cipla South Africa, therefore launched an asthma inhaler recycling initiative as part of its sustainability efforts. As part of the initial pilot project, medical-waste bins have been installed in pharmacies in Gauteng and the Western Cape, where patients can conveniently deposit them when collecting their next script.

    Patients are asked to return used asthma inhalers to pharmacies, where they will be sorted and disposed of responsibly. A company that specialises in medical waste will then uplift the contents for correct disposal and recycling, reducing the impact on already overflowing landfills and preventing propellants (containing GHGs) from seeping into the environment.

    Asthma inhalers usually consist of three parts: the plastic actuator, the metal canister, and the medication. The plastic component will be recycled and repurposed into functional items that can benefit local communities.

    This campaign will not only focus on recycling Cipla inhalers, but any type of asthma inhaler, by any manufacturer. Chief executive officer of Cipla South Africa, Paul Miller, said: “It’s critical that the healthcare industry tries to reduce its collective carbon footprint. We therefore encourage all people to dispose of their asthma inhalers sustainably.”

    Collaborative effort for asthma awareness

    To try and ensure optimal collection is achieved, Cipla will work closely with asthma-related associations such as the Allergy Association of South Africa (ALLSA), the Allergy Foundation of South Africa (AFSA), the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NEAP), and the South African Thoracic Society (SATS).

    The success of this initiative relies solely on engaged participation from the public. “We want to empower patients with the information that teaches them how to use their asthma inhaler correctly, and then to dispose of it correctly. This project therefore aims to improve health outcomes thanks to treatment adherence and correct inhaler usage, but also aims to be gentler on our planet,” said Miller.

    “We want to thank people in advance for supporting this initiative to reduce our collective carbon footprint and we’re excited to see how - by doing good for the planet - we can also make a difference in local communities with functional recycled items,” said Miller.

    Patients can return inhalers which are no longer being used to any of these pharmacies.

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