Dropping off medicine blister packs for recycling just got easier

By Rachael Ridley 15 November 2022

A new recycling service has provided Australians with more recycling drop-off points for their empty medicinal blister packs.

Blister packs (the packaging that pills and tablets come in) cannot be recycled at home through your council’s kerbside recycling service. Made from aluminium and plastic, the packaging requires specialised machinery to separate the materials before they can be recycled.

However, many Australians will now be able to drop off their empty blister packs for recycling through a recycling service that launched earlier this year. The new company, Pharmacycle, recently announced during Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week that they have partnered with Blooms the Chemist to provide the public with recycling locations across its entire network of more than 110 stores. The recycling company is keen to receive your used blister packs, as sufficient volumes are needed to warrant the use of their specialised recycling technology.

Jason Rijnbeek, Pharmacycle’s Business Development Manager, says they have plans to grow the company and its network.

“By the end of 2023, Pharmacycle will have at least five hundred drop-off locations right across Australia so every single person can recycle blister packs easily and conveniently,” he said in a statement

Until now, the only option for recycling blister packs was through a service run by Terracycle, which has around 50 recycling drop-off points at participating pharmacies in NSW, Victoria, and Queensland, with more in development.

What happens to the blister packs?

According to Pharmacycle, the blister packs they collect are processed at one of their specialised recycling facilities in Australia, where they are put through a series of mechanical processes to separate the aluminium from the plastic. Separating the materials ensures both the aluminium and the plastic can be recycled into raw materials to be used in the manufacturing of new products.

Terracycle also states the materials in blister packs are separated so the aluminium can be shredded and smelted into metal sheeting, ingots, or bar stock, and the plastics can be shredded or ground down into smaller pieces before being melted and reformatted into pellets, flakes, or a powder format. These materials are then sold to manufacturing companies to make new products such as outdoor furniture and plastic shipping pallets.

Why is it important to recycle my used blister packs?

While Planet Ark advises Australians to follow the waste hierarchy and reduce and reuse products whenever possible before considering recycling, for many people medicinal blister packs are a necessary item they simply cannot do without. Making sure these products are recycled keeps the valuable materials used to make them out of landfill and our environment. Those materials are then used again to make new products which reduces our use of energy and water and the need to extract new materials from the earth.

Aluminium, in particular, is an important material to recycle because it is a finite natural resource that is mined from the earth like other metals. It is also infinitely recyclable, which means it can be recycled again and again without any loss to quality. Furthermore, using recycled aluminium in the production of new products reduces energy use by up to 95 per cent.

To find out more about recycling blister packs and old medicine, visit Recycling Near You.

Rachael Ridley
Rachael manages the Business Recycling and Recycling Near You websites. Rachael joined Planet Ark in early 2019 after eight years working in media and publishing as a producer, editor, and writer. Rachael loves using her skills in content creation and communication to instigate positive environmental behaviour change. Outside of work, Rachael enjoys spending time in nature, listening to music, and patting dogs.