Frequently asked questions

Which inhalers are collected through Complete the Cycle?

Complete the Cycle facilitates the safe and responsible recycling and recovery of all oral respiratory inhalers - not just those manufactured by GSK.

Which inhalers do you take back?

Go to our inhaler list (PDF) to find out which inhalers we take back.

How does this scheme differ from the pilot?

GSK is now working with its logistical distributor which is able to collect inhalers from participating pharmacies, hospitals and dispensing doctors with no additional environmental impact. Once the inhalers are collected they will go to a number of companies which specialise in the recycling and recovery of these items. Initially, we were only able to accept inhalers manufactured by GSK, however all respiratory inhalers are now being collected, and all will be recycled or recovered.

Are the inhalers recycled to make new inhalers? Are the inhalers collected and re-used by patients in any way?

Currently we are unable to re-use all of the materials we collect to make new inhalers for regulatory, quality and patient safety reasons. GSK does now use recycled aluminium in our inhaler devices 

Some of the materials recycled in the scheme can be used by companies who make items from recycled plastics. Should the Complete the Cycle scheme be successful, there may be enough plastic inhaler components collected to enable GSK to consider incorporating recycled plastic in our inhaler devices - but this is unlikely to happen in the near future.

Does recycling inhalers have a significant impact?

If every metered dose inhaler-user in the UK returned all their inhalers for one year this would save 397,000 tonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to taking more than a quarter of a million cars off of the road in the UK.

You really can make a difference by returning your used inhalers to a participating pharmacy, hospital or dispensing doctor.

Why can't GSK and other manufacturers of inhalers just make them more environmentally friendly in the first place?

GSK has already reduced the emissions from its respiratory inhalers by 80% per pack by switching from CFC to HFA propellant gases. Our MDI canisters are also now made of recycled aluminium.

Why can't patients just exchange the propellant canisters when their inhaler runs out?

The regulatory work involved to make this happen is extensive. GSK is looking into the feasibility of re-using devices but in the meantime the inhaler recycling scheme offers patients a way to reduce the harmful environmental impact associated with landfill disposal.

My usual pharmacy is not listed as participating in this scheme. Can I recycle my inhalers at another pharmacy?

Yes, you may take in your respiratory inhalers into any participating pharmacy, hospital or dispensing doctor for recycling; it does not have to be your usual pharmacy. Use our pharmacy finder to find a pharmacy, hospital or dispensing doctor near you.

My inhaler is still partially full - can I take it in to be recycled or recovered?

You should take your inhalers as prescribed until they are empty. You may also take your inhalers back if they are out-of-date, whether they are full, partially full or empty.

I have always returned my old inhaler to the pharmacy, what was happening to it?

Pharmacies have always taken back unwanted medicines, however due to clinical guidelines, all medicines (including inhaler devices) have to be incinerated. Complete the cycle now provides an opportunity for the vast majority of inhalers to be recycled, not just recovered for energy.

Does GSK use recycled material in its own inhalers?

We do now use recycled aluminium in our inhaler devices. Should the Complete the Cycle scheme be successful, there may be enough of the plastic inhaler components collected to enable GSK to consider incorporating recycled plastic in our inhaler devices - but this is unlikely to happen in the near future.

There isn't a participating pharmacy close to me. Can I post my inhaler somewhere?

Unfortunately we cannot accept any postal returns - this service is only available through participating pharmacies, hospitals and dispensing doctors.