blister pack with blue and white tablets.
No. 1 for Blister Pack Recycling

How to Recycle Blister Packs

Recycling blister packs is important for businesses and homes to reduce the amount of packaging waste going to landfill. Blister packs are made from a combination of plastic and foil used to contain medication, which makes recycling difficult. However, there are schemes and actions that organisations and individuals can take to recycle pill and blister packs.

The NHS gets through around 150 million blister packs every year. Retailers and private healthcare providers account for more on top of that figure. It’s also estimated that every individual in the UK on average gets through 70 paracetamol tablets annually, equivalent to just over four packs. It adds up to a lot of blister pack waste.

Learn how to dispose of and recycle blister packs from your business or home in this guide. If you’ve got a question or want a free quote for the collection of waste blister packs from your organisation, contact us online or call 0800 211 8390.

The NHS gets through around 150 million blister packs every year
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What is a 
blister pack?

A blister pack is the packaging used to store tablets, pills, and other medication for sale or prescription. It’s a type of pre-formed packaging material that has a thermoformed plastic cavity and a pliable lid. They’re called blister packs as the product (tablet or pill) sits in a deep-drawn cavity or pocket that looks like a blister.

Blister packs are normally made of one type of plastic to hold the tablets, which are covered by a thin layer of foil. Normally the base of the packaging is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic with an aluminium foil top. These are heat-sealed together.

The combination of materials used to make blister packs and the heat-sealing means separating them to recycle blister packs is difficult and expensive. For this reason, many councils don’t recycle pill packets as it’s too costly. There are other places and solutions for blister pack recycling for households and businesses though.

blister packs containing red tablets.

How to recycle tablet blister packs 
from your business

Businesses must arrange commercial waste collection of all types and amounts of waste they produce. This includes using licensed waste carriers to remove any empty blister packs or those containing expired medication. You also have a duty of care to ensure waste disposal in ways that avoid harming the environment, so recycling blister packs is essential where possible.

As blister packs and pill packets contain a few elements and are made from a combination of materials, your organisation should use different bins to recycle each part. For any blister packs that still contain medication – if it’s expired or unused – you should arrange pharmaceutical waste collection. This ensures the medication is disposed of responsibly.

Dry mixed recycling bins are also an option to recycle the cardboard packaging and paper inserts to save space on your site. Contact Business Waste for a free no obligation quote based on the number, type, and size of bins you need to recycle medicine blister packs anywhere in the UK.

Separate the blister packs and their contents and use the following bins to recycle all parts of used pill packets from your organisation responsibly:

  • Cytotoxic and cytostatic waste bags

    Purple clinical waste bags are used for cytotoxic and cytostatic waste, which includes blister packs.

  • Cardboard recycling

    The outer box of most blister packs is made from cardboard that’s completely recyclable.

    cardboard waste
  • Paper recycling

    Remove the paper inserts and dispose of these in paper recycling bins.


Where can I recycle 
blister packs in the UK?

You can recycle blister packs in the UK that are personal or household waste in many Superdrug pharmacies. Waste blister packs from businesses, organisations, or healthcare facilities are not accepted as they’re a type of commercial waste. You can only recycle empty blister packs and not the cardboard packaging or paper inserts.

The blister pack recycling scheme is only available in Superdrug pharmacy stores, not those without a pharmacy. Simply visit your local Superdrug pharmacy and dispose of your empty blister packets in the dedicated collection boxes. They’re collected and the packs are recycled and turned into boards for the construction industry.

The medicine packet recycling scheme runs in partnership with TerraCycle, which is responsible for recycling blister packs collected in Superdrug pharmacies. Superdrug has also teamed up with many household brands to help make the scheme a success, including Benadryl, Buscopan, Calpol, Nurofen, Imodium, Nicorette, Optrex, BuscoMint, Dulcolax, Sudafed, and Allevia.

blister packs containing tablets piled on top of each other.

How are blister packs recycled?

Empty blister packs are collected and transported to appropriate waste management facilities for recycling. Here they’re broken down into their elements, which are recycled alongside materials of the same type. Tablet blister pack recycling methods can vary depending on the facility. The general method for medicine blister pack recycling follows such steps:

  • The blister packs are separated mechanically and by hand into their fibres, fabrics, metals, and plastic materials.
  • These fibres are hydro pulped to separate any coatings, such as wax and plastic.
  • After separation, the fibres are recycled into new paper products where possible. If not, they’ll be sent for industrial composting.
  • Plastics from the recycled blister packs are recycled into plastic polymers, while metals from the foil layer are smelted for steel making.
  • If the blister packs contain any flexible and rigid plastics then they’ll undergo extrusion and pelletisation. These are then moulded into new recycled plastic products.

Who needs to 
recycle blister packs?

Any business that needs to get rid of empty blister packs or those containing expired or unused medication should seek recycling solutions. Collection by licensed waste carriers of any commercial blister pack waste is a legal requirement. Some of the main organisations that need to recycle pill packets include:

  • Care homes

    Recycling of blister packs containing regular medication for residents.

  • Hospitals

    Disposal of pill packets for a wide range of medication in hospitals.

  • Shops

    Recycle expired stock, returned packets, and other blister packs.

    retail waste

How to dispose of 
blister packs at home

Most councils and local authorities don’t accept empty blister packs in household recycling bins. This means most are disposed of with domestic general waste and may end up in landfill or be sent for incineration. To protect the environment, you can recycle blister packs at home by taking them to your local Superdrug pharmacy.

Some GP surgeries and healthcare centres are also trialling blister pack recycling schemes, so check with your local facility. If you’ve got any unopened, unused, and expired medication in blister packs then return them to your local pharmacy for disposal. They should accept them even if you purchased the from a different pharmacy.

You can recycle the cardboard box and paper inserts from any blister packs at home in your domestic recycling bin. If your recycling bin is full or you’ve got lots for disposal, you should be able to recycle medicine blister packs at your nearest household waste recycling centre (HWRC) too.

two open blister packs with pills coming out of the boxes.

Arrange blister pack recycling

Recycle medicine blister packs anywhere in the UK with Business Waste. We can provide free bins and bags to store cytotoxic and cytostatic waste including empty blister packets – you only pay for collection. Book removals on a daily, weekly, fortnightly, or ad hoc schedule to suit your needs.

Cardboard, paper, and dry mixed recycling bins can also be delivered and collected to recycle the rest of any blister packs. And we offer pharmaceutical waste collection services to help you dispose of any full packets of tablets, pills, and other medication responsibly.

Licensed waste carriers remove your old blister packs and transport them to a relevant waste management facility for recycling and disposal. Get in touch with our expert team for a free no obligation quote for blister pack collections and recycling today – contact us online or call 0800 211 8390.

How to dispose of old medication
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Blister pack recycling FAQs

  • PHARMACEUTICAL Which pharmacies recycle blister packs?

    Superdrug pharmacies are currently the only pharmacies in the UK that recycle empty blister packs. This is part of a recycling scheme with TerraCycle. It could expand in the future and more pharmacies may start to recycle empty blister packs. Most pharmacies should take back expired and out-of-date blister packs containing medication.

  • PHARMACEUTICAL How can my organisation set up a recycling point for blister packs?

    If you run a pharmacy, shop, or community centre that wants to set up a recycling point for blister packs then we can help. Having a dedicated bin makes it easy for consumers to drop off their used tablet packs so they can be recycled. Put a dedicated bin in place and arrange regular removal for recycling.

    At Business Waste we can work with our nationwide network to find a suitable solution for your business or organisation. We’ll provide a free bin of the required size that you can place anywhere on your premises to store just empty blister packs. Then we’ll arrange removal by licensed waste carriers that transport the waste to a facility where blister packs are recycled.

    The easiest way to set up a dedicated recycling point for blister packs is to speak to one of our friendly experts. They can advise on your best options and provide a free quote – call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online today for more information.

  • PHARMACEUTICAL Can tablet foils be recycled?

    Tablet foil recycling is possible. However, the foil should be recycled with the rest of the blister pack at a pharmacy or through commercial waste collections. The process of tablet blister pack recycling involves the separation of the foil from the plastic packaging. It’s then melted down and reused as recycled metals.

    Recycling foil pill packets is not possible in your household waste bin or with other metal waste collections. The foil from pill packets must be recycled with the rest of a blister pack.

  • PHARMACEUTICAL Why do pharmacies use blister packs?

    Pharmacies use blister packs as they reduce contamination risks and highlight any tampering. The seals prevent exposure to contamination and lengthen the shelf life of the medication by preventing moisture from getting into the pack. The seal must be broken to remove the medication, which shows evidence of any tampering and helps people remember if they took a previous dose or not.

Learn more about 
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