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How to Recycle Medicine Blister Packs

I've believed for years than medicine blister packs, like Panadol, ibuprofen and antibiotics are unrecyclable.

WELL, I found a way to recycle those pill packets and prevent them heading to landfill.

How to recycle medicine blister packs

Medicine such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, antibiotics and even some chewing gum are packaged in blister packs combining plastic and foil.

Once empty, these typically cannot be recycled as they contain two very different components that are impossible to separate during processing without specialised equipment.

With a little patience, YOU can separate these components at home AND recycle most of the packaging.

Keep in mind, you can only recycle the separated parts, they must be empty of medicine and I'll show you step by step how to do it.

First, A few related links that are really useful:

>To dispose of unwanted medicines head here

>Terracycle do have the capability of recycling blister packs from medicines and chewing gum overseas, but I haven't found a drop off point. It would be fabulous to see these appearing in chemists

>Contact lens blister packs ARE accepted so head here to find drop off points across Australia

Recycling Blister Packs Instructions

Here's how you can recycle blister packs for less landfill rubbish in your zero waste journey...

Step 1:

Tear foil from the plastic.

Quite a lot will come off very easily and there will be some bits that remain on the plastic. (these may come off if soaked in water, but I haven't experimented much and to be honest, it will be pretty fiddly to separate it 100%)

Make a pile of foil pieces and set aside.

Collect foil from blister packs

Step 2.

With your kitchen scissors, cut the blister pack

so that you are left with 2 piles:

> Plastic only pieces AND

>Un-separated foil and plastic bits.

seperating blister packs for recycling

This was a paracetamol pack and you can see more than half is now recyclable.

Step 3.

Now, an issue to be wary of is that tiny pieces of plastic and foil will actually contaminate recycling at the processing plant.

Here's how to avoid that:

> Small pieces of plastic MUST to be placed in a container such as an empty milk bottle to actually get recycled.

> Foil pieces MUST be formed into a fist sized ball, so combine with any other foil you collect so they stay together.

Some medicines, like aspirin, come completely in foil, or completely in plastic, which is far easier to recycle in kerbside programs.

Foil medicine packets

Generally, we have very little choice in medicine packaging, but this is at least one simple way you can reduce the impact.

recycling Panadol blister packs

Always check what your local council accepts in recycling as each suburb, state and country will have different rules.

My local council is Port Adelaide Enfield and I sought advice on this idea to make sure it could actually be recycled and that I wasn't completely wasting my time.


Will you give this a go?

I hope so, and please spread the word so others can start recycling this pesky packaging too!

If you're a regular headache suffer (like me) check these great tips on Zero Waste Headache and Migraine Relief

Medications and zero waste don't always work together - here are some of my thoughts about Zero Waste and Illness.


1 Comment

Colleen Kennedy
Colleen Kennedy
Mar 28, 2022

Great news! I've been separating the foil from blister packs about 2 months out so. It's quite shocking how much more recycling it makes when you have to take several medications! I use an old pair of long tweezers to help pull off the foil & if you get in the habit of slicing the foil thru the middle u have 2 sides to pull from OR sometimes u can gently peel from the 1st tablet & fold over the foil as you continue in a strip each day. I'm glad to hear the plastic blister bits can be recycled as well, in a clear visible jar/

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