Can You Recycle Inhalers?

We can refer to inhalers as saviors in a bottle. They are certainly a very source of purified air if you have asthma. So if you have asthma, you can very much relate to just how valuable inhalers are.

But of course, they are limited, which means you may run out of a new supply within a short time. As such, you may have to purchase a substantial number of inhalers to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

inhaler

While we recognize that inhalers are indispensable, we also have to look into ways to dispose of them properly. Some contain greenhouse gases, and to protect the environment, you have to dispose of them correctly.

In this blog post, we will walk you through how you can dispose of your empty inhaler canisters in an environmentally friendly manner.

Are Inhalers Recyclable?

When we use up materials in a container, the next step will be to dispose of said container. Essentially, waste disposal is an integral part of living, and we cannot do without it. If you are environmentally conscious, you will constantly source ways to dispose of your waste materials properly, and the most common one is through recycling.

If you burn through three or more inhaler canisters yearly, the issue of disposal undoubtedly comes up. Now, how do you dispose of your inhaler? Do you simply toss it in the bin? To answer that, you shouldn’t, and here’s why.

Inhalers typically come in two types; Dry Powder Inhalers and Metered Dose Inhalers. Now, there is hardly a problem with disposing of dry powder inhalers. However, disposal of Metered Dose or pMDI canisters may be a bit more tricky.

pMDI canisters are inhalers with pressurized and chemically treated air. They are just like medication, but they heal your lungs and make it possible to breathe easily.

However, the propellants that make this work are strong enough to pass greenhouse gases. But of course, they pose absolutely no harm to you. They can remain in your inhaler canister even after you have used up your supply. As such, you have to dispose of it properly.

Failure to do so will mean that during the decomposition process, these greenhouse gases will leak out of the canister and into the environment, subsequently harming it. However, there is a safe way to dispose of it.

Most recycling centers may not accept inhalers, as they are medical waste. However, you may inquire at your local recycling center if you can bring your old ones over.

Alternatively, you may simply accumulate the empty canisters and tote them down to your pharmacy. Pharmacies accept medical waste like inhalers. They also have suitable disposal methods and mediums in place. For inhalers, the most appropriate way to dispose of them will be to incinerate them or simply resort to thermal treatment.

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But of course, you cannot do it yourself because of the care that has to be taken during the process. Also, as we mentioned earlier, it contains greenhouse gases which may make incineration challenging. Unless, of course, you are a professional who has handled this waste disposal numerous times.

The metal and aluminum components will be kept and recycled in some cases while the other parts get incinerated.

Are Inhalers Bad For the Environment?

We mentioned earlier that there are two types of inhalers – Dry Powder Inhalers and Metered Dose Inhalers. The latter is more of a threat to the environment because of its manufacturing components. Metered Dose Inhalers contain greenhouse gases that make up their propellant.

Now, these greenhouse gases are super helpful for growing plants, among several things. But in terms of disposal, it can be challenging. Greenhouse gases can cause climate change, extreme weather conditions and even wildfires, among other dangers.

As such, you have to explore safe ways to dispose of your canister if you are using Metered Dose inhalers. Alternatively, you may instead opt for the Dry Powder Inhalers, as those are more environmentally positive. 

As technology evolves, pharmaceutical companies now look for alternative and environmentally friendly ways to cure diseases, and one of such innovations is the Dry Powder Inhaler. According to recent studies, replacing 10% of Metered Dose Inhalers with Dry Powder ones will substantially reduce the use of greenhouse gases. To put a number to it, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 58,000 tonnes.

Aside from the materials in the inhaler canisters, we also have to consider the containers they come in. Most inhalers are made from plastic, steel and aluminum. These materials are non-biodegradable and typically take years to get broken down. As such, it is best to dispose of them properly if you intend to protect your environment.

While inhalers may be great if you have reoccurring asthma attacks, they are undoubtedly bad for the environment. Therefore, if you intend to switch from a Metered Dose Inhaler to a Dry Powder Inhaler, it is best to consult your doctor or pharmacist first.

Can You Throw Away Inhalers?

Inhalers are hazardous waste, which means that throwing them in your bin is not advisable. Inhalers, whether Dry Powder or Metered Dose, are medical waste and should be disposed of properly.

Essentially, you should never throw your old inhaler in the waste bin. Instead, you may resort to taking it down to your pharmacy and having them dispose of it for you.

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Inhalers typically come with a plastic component and a steel or aluminum canister for holding the treated air. Now, throwing your inhaler in the bin will see it ending up on a landfill, which could be a recipe for disaster.

To start with, recent studies have shown that at least 29% of used-up inhalers still have medication in them. Now, when these inhalers get to the landfills, they can eventually get punctured and leak out the gases in them. These gases certainly aren’t environmentally friendly and will end up polluting our water. They can also release the greenhouse gases in them and subsequently pollute the water, air and soil.

Aside from the medication in them, inhalers are made from materials that do not decompose fast. The average inhaler has plastic, steel and aluminum components in it. With plastic, you may be looking at twenty to five hundred years before it finally decomposes. Even then, you can be assured that there are still microscopic pieces in the environment, meaning they never really go away.

The steel and aluminum parts of the inhalers may also take about fifty and two hundred to five hundred years to decompose, respectively.

The dangers of disposing of your inhaler in the waste bin are pretty alarming and equally glaring. That being said, it is best to simply take them to a pharmacy close to you and have them dispose of the empty canisters the proper way.

Are Inhalers Inflammable?

Absolutely! Inhalers are inflammable, which means they will catch on fire if you expose them to extreme heat. One of such ways is by leaving your inhaler in the waste bin. It will end up on a landfill, and when it gets exposed to extreme temperatures, it will go up in flames.

As such, you have to take extreme care when disposing of your empty inhaler canister. Leave it to experts if you may. Here, we are referring to pharmacists, as they have handled thermal treatments numerous times.

To save yourself time and energy, you can simply gather up your old inhaler canisters and save them for a one-time trip to the pharmacy. Alternatively, you may also take your used one to the pharmacy when you are next looking to pick up a new prescription.

What Can You Do With Old Inhalers?

If you have got an accumulated share of inhalers, you may be looking into ways to dispose of them. But of course, recycling them is an excellent and environmentally conscious way to go about it.

At the same time, it is best to consider recycling as a last resort because recycling destroys the materials to make room for building new ones. When you repurpose or reuse an item until you find no use for it anymore, you can recycle it.

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That way, you are cutting back on your consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources, thereby conserving those materials for future generations.

Well, there is not much you can do with your old inhaler as it is medical waste. However, you may consider these few ideas before you resort to thermally treating them.

1. Donate Them

If you recently overstocked on inhalers, you may be looking for ways to dispose of them. Sure, they are medications, which means that they can expire.

Since you have not used some of the inhalers you recently purchased, you can simply donate them to non-profit clinics. If you are so inclined, you may also take it back to your pharmacy. Unfortunately, chances are they may not give you a refund, primarily if you have held onto them for a long time.

So, you may have to donate it to them. They, in turn, can provide these inhalers to people who have asthma but cannot afford to purchase inhalers.

2. Keyholders

You may also decide to turn your inhaler into a key holder. However, you will only use the plastic part and dispose of the used-up canister properly.

For this craft, you will need some paint, a perforator and a key chain. You can repaint the plastic part of the inhaler and use a perforator to put a hole where you will slot in the key chain. If you do not have a perforator, you can heat a screwdriver or any other tool and use the tip to puncture a hole in the plastic of your inhaler.

This is an incredible hack if you misplace your keys often. The inhaler’s plastic is large enough for you to spot quickly. It also helps that you have painted it an attractive color that is not conspicuous.

Please note that you cannot gift out this particular hack, as it is made from an inhaler that has been in your mouth often.

Conclusion

According to recent studies, above forty-six million people throw away inhalers yearly. That is a considerable number that can wreak havoc on the environment if these inhaler canisters are not well disposed of.

Typically, there are multiple ways to reuse or repurpose items we use every day. However, with medical waste such as inhalers, your options are limited. Therefore, you will have to resort to recycling as your first and last option.

Simply head to your pharmacy with your accumulated used-up inhaler canisters for recycling. They will thermally treat it by incinerating or resorting to other options. You can also rest assured that some of these pharmacies gather aluminum and plastic parts to recycle them and subsequently use them to produce more inhalers.

References:

https://www.envirotech-online.com/news/business-news/44/breaking-news/why-are-asthma-inhalers-bad-for-the-environment/50744

https://www.recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with/inhalers-0

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.