How can I reuse or recycle … asthma inhalers?

InhalerWe’ve had another email from Am (who comments as Delusion), this time saying:

My partner is asthmatic and so goes through inhalers. It seems a waste to throw them out, I don’t think there is much to be done with reusing them though I may be wrong.

Does anyone know of anywhere these could be returned for reuse? Even if it is only the plastic outer casing?

My first thought would be to ask the chemist to not include the plastic part with each refill – but if they get the complete inhaler from the pharmaceutical company already packaged up, they probably would end up just throwing them out from the shop. Does anyone know what the situation is with this?

And what about suggestions for reuse? Or recycling the individual bits?

(Photo by Jenny Rollo)

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25 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle … asthma inhalers?”


  1. The plastic housing of inhalers contains a precise orifice that disperses the spray in the correct way. The device is designed to last for 1 canister only and therefore a new canister should never be used with an old housing.

    Although not stated, the plastic is likely to be a certified pharmaceutical blend such as Makrolon. I think the best you could hope for would be to recycle the case only by putting it with the rest of your plastic recycling.

    If your wife doesn’t like the look of her inhaler you can always buy her a nice case to put it in. They are avalable at http://www.respirecases.com

  2. Katz says:

    While we are talking about inhalers – what do you do with round ones – they could be put in recycling bin (I think) but they look so usefull and nice..
    like the purple round one the picture: http://www.nuh.com.sg/healthinfo/images/dscf0009.jpg

  3. AliceJ says:

    They might or might not be the right kind of plastic to go in the recycling bin, but they almost certainly have parts inside that are not the right kind, or that are not plastic at all.

    Some of my neighbours and I amuse ourselves by making science-fiction theatre sets. We tend to collect odd-looking plastic things so we can make aliens etc out of them…

    Sad, I know.

  4. Anyanka says:

    Has anyone found out what to do with their empty inhalers yet? I was thinking of approaching Boots the chemist to see if they would be able to send them back to the supplier to be reused.

  5. Greenmom says:

    Both my son and I use the inhalers-I use the plastic tube part to make weird shaped tassels (for upholstery, wallhangings etc)
    My son amuses himself by making robots and model spaceships and uses the (empty) canisters as “components”

    Ive read that asthma inhalers are going to be phased out because the propellant in them is dangerous to the ozone. So this may not be a recycling problem much longer.

    • rachel says:

      I use an albuterol sulfate inhaler. A few years ago the shape and was it spray out changed because they said it was bad for the environment. Now its half the size and red, you also have to time when you inhale and suck in harder to get the medicine…

      • Scots John says:

        Hello Guys
        I an an asthma sufferer and 2 of my kids as well. I have been trying to look at ideas around the recycling of plastics as a business opportunity, and often wondered about recycling inhalers. A ventolin or salbutamol inhaler comes in 2 parts (sorry if sounds patronising) the plastic container and the aluminium part. Its the aluminium part that intrigues me. How to deal with propellent gas/chemical?How would you recycle the alluminium? The amount of inhaler usage in this country is heavy and wasteage is extreme

  6. Ali says:

    According to the manufacturers, you can put all the plastic parts out with your other recycling waste.

  7. lou says:

    The manufacturers should instruct people what to do with the empty inhalers. It’s irresponsible if they don’t. It should be on the box that it come with.

    • Suzie.M says:

      My sister is asmatic and when her inhualers run out she sends them to a recyceling plant were they melt it down. So i am sure you will be able to do the same. Hope this helps you. From Suzie.M x

  8. joe fredshaw says:

    i have asthma an i love it

  9. Polstar says:

    Hmmm, I was hoping to see some suggestions for crazy crafty ideas but none have appeared. So today I’m going to make it my mission to try and create something interesting out of all my old plastic asthma pumps. Methinks lots of glue may be involved!

    this is funny but impractible because you can’t reuse a housing:
    http://bitchinlifestyle.tv/Crafts-DIY/Rock-This-House/Crafts-DIY/

    that’s all I could find … right … time to make something!

  10. Esther says:

    I’ve been using these inhalers for over 35 years, at a rate of 1-3 a month, which brings us to an estimated total of over 700 inhalers…give or take. I’ve also used all the others in the pic Katz posted. I’ve always thought it a waste, but never figured out what to do with them, besides the recycling bin.

    Looking forward to someone’s great idea…

    • rachel says:

      You should try Qvar if you haven’t already. Its in the shape of an inhaler and used the same way but it prevents the symptoms of asthma from happening as often.
      it does make me a weeze a tad bit right after I use it but not enough to reach for the real inhaler. After that goes away I feel like I never had asthma! Till I need another dose anyway…

      • Robin says:

        Qvar is a type of inhaler – it’s just a brand name for Beclometasone dipropionate.

        “inhaler” refers to the type of device, not the medication that’s in the device. So I have a preventer inhaler that contains beclometasone (which I use twice a day, to keep down any inflammation in my lungs), and a reliever inhaler that contains salbutamol , to use if I feel wheezy.

        If the preventer inhaler is doing its job – like yours is – you shouldn’t need to use a reliever so often.

        But they’re both “real” inhalers, they just contain different stuff that does different things.

  11. Sarah says:

    I recently emailed the maker of my purple disk inhaler. here’s their response:

    Thank you for contacting GlaxoSmithKline about ADVAIR DISKUS® (fluticasone propionate/salmeterol).

    You have asked an important question about recycling the expired diskus. Consumers interested in recycling their Diskus device may send empty Diskus at their own expense to: Material Matters, Inc. 730 Brady Ave. Asheboro, NC, 27203. There may be other companies or programs that recycle Diskus devices. We do not have information on them.

    • Melanie says:

      Thanks so much for this! I will mail my used Advair inhalers to this address.

    • Cecelia says:

      I contacted Material Matters several months ago. They told me they deal in truckload recycling. Said they would check to see if they could accommodate small parcels. Have yet to hear from them. Has anyone just sent them Material Matters?

  12. stuart says:

    I wonder why the plastic casing is made to be one use only? I wonder if there would be a way to lobby the manufacturers to make them stronger (or longer lasting) so people could request to only have the metal medication holder when they get a new prescription. I wonder how much money/waste this could save. I’d love to get a response from the manufacturer.

  13. Kevin says:

    If you have empty inhalers they can be recycled by your local waste hauler by placing them in the recycle bin or trash. If the inhaler still contains medication it should be expelled and then placed in the trash or recycle bin. Read the label to make sure it does not contain any CFC’s. Old inhalers may and should be taken to a local household hazardous waste facility.

    I am not sure why they are not resusable but I would suspect that like most medical items it is best to use once and dispose of to avoid future contamination.

    Check with the FDA website for more information or your local government on disposal of household materials.

  14. Matt says:

    I like the sound of this: http://www.behance.net/gallery/Rehale-Refill-not-landfill/1528013
    I would like to see more of the research, and what type of people the designer asked about the inhaler. But the concept sounds like a good one!

  15. Janette M Hursh says:

    Check with your doctor, medical clinic, or health care provider. Our clinic has a locked bin to discard unused or outdated medications (over-the-counter and prescription) bottles, unopened packets, plus tubes of creams and ointments.

  16. barry graver says:

    i’m trying to locate 10-12 EMPTY inhalers for first aid training purposes, can anyone help??

    thanks



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