How Blooms the Chemist is tackling the growing problem of medical waste


Blooms the Chemist has partnered with recycling start-up Pharmacycle to tackle one of the most prevalent forms of  medical waste: blister packs. In conjunction with National Recycling Week this week, the pharmacy chain is putting new, co-branded recycling stations in over 100 Blooms locations, so customers can drop off used blister packs instead of sending them to landfill.  Pharmacycle will collect the bins once they are full and put them through its processing facilities, which will

will see the plastic reused into building products, and the aluminium repurposed into thermal energy storage boxes to be used in New South Wales. 

The bins will be a permanent addition to stores, and are part of a larger effort by Blooms to take responsibility for the pharmacy sector’s impact on the environment.

“We feel there is a definite need in the pharmacy industry to set some ambitious goals toward the environment,” Blooms the Chemist area manager and leader of its environmental working group Kimberly Baldassarre told Inside Retail. 

“We’ve had a look at what we can do to reduce our overall waste footprint, and one of the big things to come out of that was that there’s a demand from our community to be able to recycle their blister packs.

“We need to be able to provide medication for the community, but we also need to provide an opportunity for them to dispose of that packaging in a responsible way – and that’s why we reached out to Pharmacycle.”

According to Pharmacycle’s business development manager Jason Rijnbeek, the issue of blister pack waste was made far worse during the grips of the pandemic, with politicians urging Australians to use pain relief such as Panadol and Neurofen to curb the symptoms of a positive Covid-19 diagnosis. 

“We’ve definitely seen high consumption of medication out there, it’s actually blown our minds in terms of the volume of packaging that’s been put out there on the market and being utilised by the community,” Rijnbeek told Inside Retail. 

“But you can’t recycle blister packs through the curbside recycling system. The only way to do that is to put it through specialised machinery that can separate the parts. We’ve developed that processing technology onshore in Australia, so we can do that separation ourselves, but it’s something that we want to do at scale.”

Scaling up, sustainably

Both businesses are planning on significantly scaling up their recycling efforts, with Blooms already offering programs to take back unwanted or unused medications in order to ensure they don’t contaminate the environment, and are disposed of properly.

“People might not be intentionally doing harm [by throwing medication away], but the knock-on effect can be quite significant,” Baldassarre said.

“Pharmacy is probably one of the industries that is a bit behind in the sense of its sustainability credentials,  and I think the challenge we all have is that we want to be confident that we [understand] all of the current situations so we can go forward and make some significant gains in areas that are of benefit to the environment.

“[Our sustainability initiatives] are still in their infancy, but we’re absolutely committed to ensuring that we’ve got some big outcomes – we want to make sure that we’re having a positive impact on our environment. We’re hoping that by starting with this big, national approach, we can spark some conversation and change in the industry.”

The plan for Pharmacycle is to get recycling bins into as many as 500 locations across Australia, in both rural and metropolitan areas, in an effort to make reducing medical waste as easy as possible, as wide-spread as possible, and to make its own operations more efficient.

“For us, Pharmacycle is an enabler for the industry. Pharmacies, suppliers, and manufacturers can jump on board, but so can hospitals. We want to create an environment where we are providing end-to-end solutions, not just a collection service,” said Rijnbeek.

“Blister packs are the start of that journey, but we’re also looking at optical products and inhalers as the next step.”


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