Malaysians who use medical inhalers are being encouraged to return them for recycling as part of a sustainability initiative from pharmaceutical company GSK.
The program, based on a similar campaign in the UK, is in a pilot phase in collaboration with more than 50 retail stores of the Big Pharmacy chain across the Klang Valley and Seremban in greater Kuala Lumpur. The program will soon be expanded to a nationwide campaign.
Consumers are being asked to drop off their used, unwanted or expired inhalers at the participating pharmacies to help reduce plastic waste and the adverse effects that the propellant has on the environment.
Meanwhile, GSK Malaysia is investigating the feasibility of having the return inhalers recycled into materials that can be used by local artists to create art installations.
The company has committed to a long-term ambition of delivering net-zero emissions across all operations by 2030 and sees the repurposing of expired inhalers as just one step in a broader Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) program, called #Giveback.
“The program has already been conducted in the UK and will help pave the way for a more environmentally sustainable treatment of respiratory diseases in Malaysia,” said Jonathan Pan, VP & GM at GSK Malaysia.
GSK was one of the first multinational pharmaceutical companies to set ambitious environmental targets back in 2010. Since then, it has reduced carbon emissions by 34 per cent, landfill waste by 78 per cent and water usage by 31 per cent. By 2030, the company aims to reach a net-zero impact on climate and a net-positive impact on nature.
The eco-footprint of inhalers
Inhalers leave a significant impact on the environment, according to information gathered by GFK. Pressurised metered-dose inhalers with 10g of propellant can leave a carbon footprint of 13-33kg over their lifetime. These propellants are greenhouse gases, which are 1000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Evidence suggests that seven in 10 inhalers are discarded before they are completely empty and a majority of inhalers are disposed of as general waste, which means their potent greenhouse gases leak into the environment, contaminating local water supplies, and contributing to global warming.
Program partner Big Pharmacy Healthcare said GSK’s #GiveBack initiative does more than just provide a solution for patients to responsibly dispose of their inhalers.
“Pharmacists have a chance to discuss the patient’s medicine usage and encourage them to return their used inhalers to unlock the potential for improved patient outcomes and contribute to a greener environment for everyone,” said CEO Lee Meng Chuan.