The challenges of recycling blister packs

by Clean Up Australia 11/09/2023

A Sustainability Journey, Services, Social & Environmental Services, Vitamins & Medicine

This is a sponsored article from member Clean Up Australia.

Did you watch the ABC’s War On Waste and despair at the thought of all those blister packs going to landfill?  We absolutely agree! They shouldn’t go to landfill, but they can’t go in your kerbside recycling bins – but nor should it be your duty as a consumer or citizen to work out what to do – the producers of these pesky materials need to take responsibility.

When it comes to items that Australians wished they could recycle, blister packs are near the top of the list. However, as blister packs are made of different materials, including plastic and aluminium, they cannot be recycled through kerbside recycling. This means that every year, hundreds of millions of blister packs are either sent to landfill or incorrectly placed into kerbside recycling, contaminating other materials streams.

But luckily there is action you can take, and that’s to check out Pharmacycle.  Pharmacycle lets you drop empty medicinal blister packs at one of 200+ participating pharmacies across the country. And by using specialised recycling technology, located here in Australia, Pharmacycle ensures that blister packs collected for recycling are actually recycled.

Pharmacycle manages all the collection, logistics and processing of blister packs, providing full transparency and traceability, and has partnerships with local manufacturers who use our recovered materials to substitute virgin resources.

What happens and where do they go?

Collected blister packs are transported to a processing facility in Sydney. Each box or bag received at the processing facility is checked in and weighed, allowing Pharmacycle to track and report on performance across their network of public drop off locations and participating organisations.

Once weights have been recorded, the contents of full boxes/bags are emptied onto a sorting table for a visual quality control check.

 (Image source: Pharmacycle)
 (Image source: Pharmacycle)

Any contamination, such as residual medication still in packaging, paperboard packaging, or non-accepted packaging is removed and managed accordingly (recycled where possible). Any residual medication that is identified is removed and placed in a sealed container, which when full is sent to an appropriately licensed facility for disposal.

The empty blister packs are then put through a series of mechanical recycling processes to separate the aluminium foil/seal from the plastic blister. The steps include shredding, grinding, air-density separation, and finally electrostatic separation.

Once separated the aluminium and plastic material is kept in bulk bags until enough material is ready to be sent to end-users.

Have blister packs that you’d like to responsibly dispose of? You can find a Pharmacycle drop-off location here. This article originally appeared on Clean Up Australia’s Website. Find out more about their sustainability efforts here.

This is an article from a Member. The views and opinions we express here don’t necessarily reflect our organisation.

by Clean Up Australia

This a sponsored post published on behalf of Clean Up Australia.