TerraCycle’s new recycling solution for medicine blister packs


Medicine blister packs

Julien Tremblin, General Manager for TerraCycle Europe, explains the importance of recycling empty medicine blister packs and how consumer demand massively outstrips the current availability of solutions.

All stakeholders need to come together now and take responsibility by implementing a simple solution into their organisations.

Why are empty medicine blister packs so difficult to recycle? 

General Manager for TerraCycle Europe Julien Tremblin.

Due to their complex composition, which is required to protect medicines, empty medicine blister packs are challenging and costly to recycle and cannot be recycled in our home recycling bins.

Ultimately, the recycled material is worth less than the recycling process costs, so it is not economically viable for local authorities to collect or recycle them via kerbside collections.

The current demand for medicine blister pack recycling far outstrips the current availability of locations to recycle them – something needs to be done now.

Medicine blister packs are so widely used across the medical industry and play such an important role in preserving medicines that we cannot ignore the recycling issue that comes with this.

But the dilemma is how to best make this happen considering the economic challenge and the lack of the necessary recycling infrastructure.  

This is why TerraCycle is constantly looking for innovative ways to find recycling solutions to the most challenging problems out there, including empty medicine blister packs.

We have been recycling empty blister packs in the UK for years, launching our first solutions in 2018. Since then, we have collected and recycled more than 75 million blister packs at hundreds of high-traffic locations around the UK.

We recently launched TerraCycle BlisterBack with a vision to create a shared responsibility whereby locations that are prescribing, using or manufacturing medicine blister packs in large volumes, like big pharmacy chains, pharmaceutical companies, local independent pharmacies, hospitals, care homes and vet practices, take responsibility for recycling them directly or provide a way for their patients or customers to be able to do so.

How does our solution work?

Medicine blister packs

TerraCycle’s advanced recycling solution firstly separates the plastic and aluminium component parts of the medicine blister packs, which would otherwise be disposed of in general waste, into a recycled raw material which can then be used in the production of new durable and useful products.

This includes manufacturing nuts and bolts from the packaging’s aluminium as well as pipes and window frames from the plastic.

Through TerraCycle BlisterBack, we aim to develop a growing and robust nationwide network of drop-off points over the coming months and years so people across the UK have somewhere to take their empty medicine blister packs to be recycled.

We encourage organisations within the health industry – from general practices to pharmacies, hospitals, care homes and veterinary practices – to join forces in the effort to fight against plastic waste and stop empty medicine blister packs from being incinerated or ending up in landfill. 

This initiative also enables members of the public to drop off their empty blister packs at all collection points which will be available on the TerraCycle BlisterBack map, creating an industry-wide recycling network across the UK.

As an alternative option, individuals can purchase a Zero Waste Bag and can then drop off their full bag of empty medicine blister packs at one of the +7,000 InPost Lockers across the UK for recycling.

Medicine blister pack
TerraCycle’s recycling models reduce the environmental impact of a product’s end-of-life by a collective average of 74% compared to local municipal landfilling.

At TerraCycle, we have measured the positive impact that recycling has had on carbon reduction and evaluated life-cycle assessments across different categories including Global Warming Potential (carbon emissions) and water use.

Through this, we have seen that TerraCycle’s recycling models reduce the environmental impact of a product’s end-of-life by a collective average of 74% compared to local municipal landfilling and by an average of 67% compared to waste-to-energy models.

For example, disposing of an item of beauty packaging via waste-to-energy will emit more carbon than simply disposing of it via landfill, however, using a TerraCycle recycling method results in a 70% reduction of carbon emissions compared to waste-to-energy and a 55% reduction compared to municipal landfill models. 

With consumers having greater awareness today of the importance of protecting the environment, they are looking to organisations to show leadership in this field, assessing what measures they have in place to reduce their carbon footprint and what they are doing to protect the planet.

Organisations must not neglect this and start putting circularity at the forefront of their agendas and implementing simple solutions into their organisations.

CIWM advocates for professionals working in resources and waste, sustainability, and the circular economy, learn more about the benefits of CIWM membership today.



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