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Dear Recycling Bins: Wasted and Unused Medication

Dear Recycling Bins: Wasted and Unused Medication

Dear Recycling Bins: Our Weekly Recycling Advice Column

Welcome to our weekly advice column where we look at all things recycling and give you the answers you’re desperately seeking.


Dear Recycling Bins,

I’m a self-confessed over-protective mother, and not only do I have a fully-stocked first aid box, I also have a drawer full of medicines and tablets that are either out of date or haven’t been used.

I haven’t got rid of them because I don’t really know how to dispose of them safely. I’m not keen on putting tablets in the bin and it does seem a very wasteful thing to do. But I know that keeping a drawer full of medicines with children in the house isn’t exactly safe either!

Also, my youngest son has asthma and I don’t know if I can recycle his used inhalers or not. They are plastic, but I know they contain a gas so I’m not sure if it’s safe to recycle them or put them in the bin.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Yours sincerely,

A Concerned Mother


Dear Concerned Mother,

Wasted or unused medication is a big problem for our NHS which is already under so much strain. It’s estimated that around £300 million is wasted every year on medication that people either don’t use or partially use, and obviously, this can’t continue, because it’s taking away money that could be used on vital frontline services. The NHS has joined forces with a campaign called Only Order What You Need, which asks people to think carefully before ordering repeat prescriptions.

You can do your bit to help improve this situation. Any unopened, unused, or out of date medicines can be returned to a pharmacy for safe disposal. NEVER flush medication down the toilet.

If you have empty blister packs for tablets or pills, put them in your general waste bin as they aren’t recyclable. The cardboard boxes that your medication came in can be recycled.

When it comes to inhalers, they can be recycled at selected pharmacies. To find out where the nearest participating pharmacy is to you, click here.

Around 73 million inhalers are used in the UK every year, according to GlaxoSmithKline. If inhalers end up in landfill, it can be harmful to the environment because of the plastic body that doesn’t degrade and the possible emission of gases into the air if the gas canister is damaged and the propellant is released.

If every person in the UK returned their inhalers to a pharmacy for just one year, this would save over 500,000 tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.

We hope this helps!

Recycling Bins

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