How To Recycle Asthma Inhalers?

By Rebekah Pierce

If you’re one of the millions of people with asthma, you probably always have an inhaler nearby. But what do you do when it’s time to get rid of it? In this post, we’ll tell you about some options for how to recycle asthma inhalers. 

What Is An Inhaler?

There are three different types of hand-held inhalers. They are metered-dose, dry powder, and soft mist inhalers. 

No matter what type of hand-held inhaler you use, they work essentially the same way. The user places their mouth around the mouthpiece and breathes in. The inhalers release medicine that helps reduce inflammation, open up the airways, and clear out any mucus buildup that may have accumulated in the lungs. 

Although hand-held inhalers work the same way, for the most part, there are some important distinctions between the different available options. 

This article will focus on the disposal of the most commonly used inhaler, the metered-dose inhaler.

Metered Dose Inhalers

Metered-dose inhalers, also known as MDI, contain medicine in aerosol form. The user must press down on the canister to activate the medicine and breathe in at the same time. Dry powder inhalers, DPI’s, deliver medication without a propellant. So, the user simply inhales the medicine into their system. 

Soft mist inhalers, commonly known as SMI’s, are most similar to DPI’s. 

The user inhales to receive the medication. The difference between the two is that SMI’s have more particles than DPI’s and MDI’s, meaning the medicine is released more slowly, and the user can get more of the medication into their lungs. 

Your doctor might consider a few factors when deciding which type of inhaler you should use, such as age, cognitive status, manual dexterity, and ability to coordinate inhalation with activation of the canister. Children under five years old will likely be prescribed a valved holding chamber with a mask, which we will not be discussing in this article. 

The type of inhaler you’re prescribed will also depend on the type of medication you need. Inhalers are used to treat asthma attacks and to treat people living with long-term asthma. 

When a person has an asthma attack, it can be very scary. Their airways will become inflamed, narrow, and produce mucus which restricts their airways, making it difficult to breathe. 

Thankfully, inhalers are available to deliver medication to the lungs and provide life-saving relief. Some of the most common medication types include corticosteroids, beta-agonists, and anticholinergics. 

The primary focus of this article will be MDI inhalers, as they’re the most tricky of the three in terms of disposal options because the propellant contains aerosol. This can be dangerous when disposed of improperly. It also contributes to the climate crisis. 

Again, it can be dangerous, but that does not mean you should not use your inhaler at all. It also does not mean you should consider using a different type. It simply means you can benefit from reading this article if you happen to be an MDI inhaler user. You have options for recycling and safely disposing of your MDI inhaler. 

How Do I Dispose Of My Inhaler?

When it comes to treating your asthma, you’re thoughtful and conscientious about your health and safety because you have to be. You’re prepared for an emergency and regular inhaler use. 

However, you might not know what to do with your inhaler once you’ve taken all the doses and it’s empty. By throwing your used inhaler away with the rest of your garbage, you could be exposing yourself and the planet to danger. 

The good news is, this article will explain how you can recycle and dispose of your used inhalers in a safe, earth-friendly way. Your lungs and the planet will thank you. 

But before we get to that, you’re probably wondering, why can’t I just throw it in the trash with the rest of my garbage? Fair question. It’s not-so-common knowledge, but your used inhaler can actually be quite dangerous to you and the planet.

While used inhalers can be dangerous if mishandled, it’s essential to remember untreated asthma is also extremely dangerous. Ten Americans die of asthma every day. You should always take your medicine as prescribed by your doctor.

Bring Inhaler to Pharmacy

The short answer to the question of where to recycle your inhaler is this – take it to your local pharmacy and have them dispose of it for you. 

Long story short, inhalers are medical waste and need to be handled carefully. If disposed of improperly, they emit greenhouse gasses that are bad for the environment and contribute to climate crises. In addition, if an inhaler is punctured or gets too hot (in a garbage truck), it can explode. 


Needless to say, it’s a good idea to avoid all that and take your used inhalers to the pharmacy once every couple of months or every time you get a refill. Simple, safe, and smart!  

Here’s a video with more information on how to recycle asthma inhalers:

Medication Concerns

When disposing of your inhaler, you’ll also want to take into consideration the type of medicine it contains. Different medications are best disposed of in different ways. 

If you ever feel confused or uncertain, you can check the handling instructions on your inhaler or ask your doctor or pharmacist what type of medicine your inhaler uses and how you should safely dispose of it. 

Can You Put Inhalers In The Bin?

You can, yes – but, should you? No. 

As mentioned before, mishandling your inhaler can have serious negative repercussions for you and the environment. 

Let’s not forget that inhalers are a literal lifesaver for the 300 million asthma sufferers worldwide. That’s right, 300 million! 

Imagine how much of an impact could be made if all inhaler users took small actions and recycled their inhalers? Recycling your inhaler can literally help to breathe “fresh life” into old ones.

Can You Recycle the Plastic Part of Inhalers?

That depends. 

Some recycling programs accept the plastic parts of inhalers, and some do not. Give your local recycling location a call and ask what they allow. You can also wash and reuse certain pieces. 

Before you do any of that, make sure to check the manufacturing label on your inhaler – and again, check with your pharmacy to make sure that’s not an option.

How to Recycle Metal Inhaler Canister

Many major chain pharmacies currently offer medical waste disposal programs. 

Walgreens and CVS are great places to start. Ask your pharmacist or go online to find the nearest location that accepts medical waste. It’s important you don’t try to throw it out on your own. 


Asthma Inhaler Recycling Ideas

So, you’ve done your research and decided you want to dispose of your empty inhalers in a way that’s both safe and earth-friendly. 

To sum things up, here are your options to do so.  

  • Ask your pharmacist if they offer a medical waste disposal 
  • Contact your local recycling program
  • Call local medicine-take-back program drop-off locations 

Another less obvious but equally important reason you should be more mindful about inhaler disposal is that 29% of tossed inhalers still have medicine in them. 

That’s a lot of life-saving and expensive doses that go to waste. When those inhalers end up in landfills, they can release left-over medicine and contaminate local water supplies. 

So, mishandling your used inhalers is not only a threat to the environment, but it’s also an unnecessary threat to your bank account. 

Recycle Your Inhalers The Right Way!

Now that you have some ideas about how you can recycle and safely dispose of your used and empty inhalers, you can breathe easy, knowing you did your part to preserve the planet, and keep yourself healthy at the same time. Mother Earth – and your lungs – will thank you!

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