Going Green: ​Inhaler disposal causes environmental blight

Problem of discarded inhalers (photo: Adobe)Problem of discarded inhalers (photo: Adobe)
Problem of discarded inhalers (photo: Adobe)
This week green campaigner Angela Terry tackles a landfill problem. I saw a sign in the chemist saying landfill disposal of inhalers is harmful to the environment, is that true?

It’s not only true but it’s a problem that’s growing. If every inhaler in the UK was returned to the pharmacy who can dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way, we’d save 512,330 tonnes of CO2 annually.

That’s the equivalent of a VW Golf being driven around the world 88,606 times. In fact, inhalers – often prescribed for asthma and allergies – account for approximately 3 percent of the entire carbon footprint of the NHS.

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NICE the National Institute of Clinical Excellence suggests medicine optimisation could save 202 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, 0.3 million metres cubed of water, and 24 tonnes of waste per 100,000 of the population.

The figures all point to the fact that there are definitely places where patients and NHS staff alike can make changes that could make a big difference to the environment.

But it’s not just prescription medications.

A report published earlier this month aims to reduce the carbon footprint of surgical procedures too.

The UK Health Alliance says UK surgical care is responsible for around 5.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year. That’s the equivalent of the heat, transport, waste and electricity use of over 700,000 UK homes.

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When you consider the fact that the NHS aims to be net zero by 2045, reducing surgical emissions could go a long way to helping our beloved health service reach those targets.

The best thing about the report though, is that there are easy steps hospitals can to do make sure they’re doing their bit.

A team at Imperial College London reduced both emissions and costs by switching from disposable to reusable gowns and also going from general anaesthetic to local anaesthetic for some procedures.

But while not all of us will have surgery, there are plenty of us that use prescription medication regularly. Whether that’s inhalers, epi pens or other drugs.

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There are things we can all do to help though. It’s worth making sure you only get what you need– lots of medicines and drugs end up wasted because they expire before they’ve been used – in fact over £300 million worth is wasted annually and if you think how much plastic and chemicals that contains, there’s a huge saving both financially for the NHS and environmentally to be made there.

If you have anything like an inhaler, or any medication that needs a gas canister, please, take it back to your chemist who can take it from you and get rid of it in a way that doesn’t harm the environment rather than dispose of it yourself .

There are over 1.11 billion prescriptions issued in the UK every year, if everyone disposed of their leftover packaging in an appropriate, recyclable way, imagine the difference it’d make?

Celebrity spot

Game of Thrones’ actress Bella Ramsey is one of a hundred British actors asking for changes to their riders to make sure film making in the UK is accountable for its green credentials. The 20 year old, known for playing Lyanna Mormont in the hit show said: “We can make all the films in the world about climate change but unless we are environmentally conscious in the process of making them, our efforts are superficial.”

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Green swap

​Swap Christmas presents for vouchers ‘donating’ time with those in your life. We are busy so gift babysitting sessions with friends and neighbours or take a New Year Lunch with colleagues instead of a big ‘to do’ list with your work’s Secret Santa.

Advertising watchdog bans two Toyota car ads

In a UK first, the advertising standards agency (ASA) has banned two Toyota car adverts for both featuring and condoning driving that impacts nature negatively.

The adverts show SUVs driving through the natural landscape including off road terrain and rivers. The slogan that accompanies the advert includes the words “born to roam”.

It’s the first time the ASA have made a decision with environmental responsibility at the core of their decision making. They ruled the adverts “condoned the use of vehicles in a manner that disregarded their impact on nature and the environment … they had not been prepared with a sense of responsibility to society”.

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But while this is a first, it hopefully won’t be the last. Any advertising that glamorises the destruction of nature should be called to account.

And while there are millions of us who are defending the environment across the country, maybe watchdogs can be added to the list?

Veronica Wignall, a co-director at campaign group Adfree Cities, said: “These adverts epitomise Toyota’s total disregard for nature and the climate, by featuring enormous, highly polluting vehicles driving at speed through rivers and wild grasslands.”

It shouldn’t just be down to people who care. If advertisers were held to account and were told they couldn’t hijack the environment for their financial gain, we could see a huge sea change.

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There are calls to stop high carbon advertising in all it’s forms, like already happens for cigarette ads and like the plans to have foods high in salt, fat and sugar only able to advertise after the watershed at 9pm.

While the Toyota ban is a first because of the language they used, in June this year, ASA banned an ad campaign by Shell.

The oil company developed a series of adverts promoting their green initiatives and the ASA stepped in again banning it on the grounds it was misleading to consumers.

The adverts pushed agendas on renewable electricity, wind and car charging point initiatives with no mention of the majority of Shell’s business income.

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The ASA suggested not telling consumers most of its business is based on oil and gas that create damaging carbon pollution wasn’t telling the truth to the people who see the ads.

The fact companies are being called to account when it comes to the environment by a watchdog can only be a good thing. It’s one less place for them to hide and one more agency that has been told to stop greenwashing.

Advertising used to be known for getting people to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need but an increasing number of advertising and PR professionals are donating their time to ensure a better world. Glimpse is an open collective of creative people who want to use their skills for good andshine a light on the better world that's possible if we act to protect the things we love. Over 900 agencies have pledged to not work with fossil fuel clients and they encourage others in the ad world to the Glimpse Collective

The Collective - Glimpse Glimpse (weglimpse.co)

Fact or fiction

The oceans have absorbed more than 50 percent of the excess heat produced by climate change


They’ve absorbed more than 90 percent leaving them less productive and more acidic.

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