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What is the environmental impact of inhalers?

Patient information A-Z

The propellants used in some inhalers are powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Even after an inhaler is finished it still contains these environmentally damaging gases.

The most powerful gases, and environmentally damaging, are within MDIs (Meter Dose Inhalers) which can be used to help patients with asthma and COPD.

Inhaler emissions account for approximately 3% of the NHS carbon footprint (13% within primary care), and with the NHS target to be Net-Zero by 2040, we need to reduce this impact now.

An inhaler with the globe behind it

What can I do as a patient?

  1. Ask your respiratory clinician if a DPI (Dry Powder Inhaler) is clinically appropriate for you. DPIs work just as effectively for most patients but do not use powerful greenhouse gases to propel medication into your lungs. By making a swap from MDI to DPI, you could cut your carbon footprint by the equivalent of driving around 1,740 miles a trip from London to Moscow. Please do not stop using your inhalers until you have discussed switching with your respiratory clinician. If it isn't clinically appropriate for you to switch from an MDI to a DPI, don’t worry! The most environmentally friendly inhaler is the one you can use most effectively to keep your disease stable, preventing hospital admissions and additional medicines. But that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce your carbon footprint too...
  2. Recycle your MDI inhalers sustainably! Please ensure that your MDI inhalers are not put in your domestic general or recycling bins. Greenhouse gases will still be present, even in used inhalers, and therefore will release the gases when in landfill. Alongside this, the plastic sleeve will be present in landfill for over 400 years before it starts to biodegrade. Please note that most domestic council recycling contractors cannot recycle inhalers either. Instead, please take your inhalers to your local pharmacy or bring them to your respiratory appointments here at Adddenbrookes for proper gas disposal and plastic recycling.

Help and guidance

  • Speak to your respiratory clinicians regarding switching over to DPIs and the recycling programme here at Cambridge University Hospitals.
  • Check out the ‘Greener NHS’ website to read about NHS Sustainability, and how you can help.
  • Check out the ‘Green Inhaler’ website for guidance on your individual inhaler impact.
  • Check out the Cambridge University Hospitals website to find out what we are doing to help secure a climate-safe future.

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

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Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151