Future watch

Novo Nordisk launches recycling initiative, PenCycle

November 3, 2021

This week Novo Nordisk announced the launch of PenCycle, a recycling initiative for pre-filled injection pens – a first-of-its-kind in the UK, designed to address the challenge of recycling injection pen devices, used by people living with diabetes, obesity and growth disorders, which otherwise end up in landfill or incinerated.

The pilot initiative will launch initially across Greater Manchester, Leicestershire & Rutland, and Greater Glasgow and Clyde, ahead of a planned national roll-out next year. Users of Novo Nordisk’s pre-filled FlexPen® and FlexTouch® devices, used to dispense insulin and other medications, will be able to recycle their empty pens as part of this initiative. This can be done through returning their pens via local participating community pharmacies, via pre-paid Royal Mail boxes, or through an ‘at home’ collection pilot service for people using growth hormone pens. As a circular initiative, the pens will be returned to Denmark where the plastic will be recycled into a range of items, such as chairs and lamps. Participating pharmacies will receive a PenCycle Starter Pack which will contain all necessary materials, including practical guidance on the initiative, patient information and materials for patients to take home and start PenCycling.



The pilot alone aims to recycle over 150,000 pre-filled plastic injection pen devices, ensuring over two tonnes of plastic materials is diverted from UK landfill. At the end of 2022, it is expected that 1.1 million pre-filled plastic injection pen devices will have been recycled, with a potential to recycle over 3 million pen devices in 2023, preventing over 56 tonnes of plastic waste.

Pinder Sahota, General Manager UK, Novo Nordisk said: “Novo Nordisk is proud to lead the way in our industry when it comes to sustainable business practices. As part of our Circular for Zero initiative, we were the first pharmaceutical company to run all of our production through renewable power, and now we are taking on the challenge of recycling our plastic pen devices. When designing the initiative, it was important that as well as being environmentally sustainable, PenCycle would also meet the needs of the people that we serve. Therefore, we have focused on establishing partnerships with community pharmacies and the Royal Mail to ensure that people have varied and convenient options to recycle their pre-filled injection pen devices. Through this recycling initiative we can help to give used pens a new purpose, and play our part in preventing further waste.”

Laura Sims, Head of Membership for the National Pharmacy Association said: “We’re pleased to be supporting the PenCycle collaboration, and helping our members understand the benefits of the pilot scheme and how to take part. Community pharmacies dispense more than a billion prescription items each year and can greatly increase sustainability through recycling.”

Kevin Birch, Chief Retail Officer at LloydsPharmacy, said: “LloydsPharmacy is committed to becoming a sustainable business, and we understand that our customers and patients expect us to play our part. Reducing plastic waste in our healthcare settings is a key part of our approach, and so we’re delighted to be supporting PenCycle recycling initiative. Now, our customers can conveniently return their empty insulin pens when collecting their next prescription – a recycling decision that’s easy for them and great for the environment.”

This initiative forms part of Novo Nordisk’s ambitious strategy to have zero environmental impact, also known as Circular for Zero. This includes commitments to have zero CO2 emissions from operations and transportation by 2030. The UK business is already moving their entire fleet of cars to electric/hybrid, whilst working with all suppliers to ensure they use 100% renewable power.

News & Analysis

by Gwyn Tudor