EcoHale by Haughton Design
Haughton Design, in Stafford, has created a new design for medical inhalers drastically reducing the amount of waste plastic.

Design company’s innovation to help cut plastic waste from inhalers 

2 mins read

A Stafford-based company has come up with an innovative design for medical inhalers which eliminates at least 80 per cent of the current annual plastic waste. 

Haughton Design has developed and officially released the concept of EcoHale, a type of pressurised metered-dose inhaler (pMDI) with reuseable plastic elements which has already gained a high amount of interest from the NHS. 

Currently, people who use the inhalers have to throw away the whole device each time the canister inside, which contains the drug being taken, is depleted. The inhalers cannot be recycled through council recycling schemes because they are classed as medical waste. 

The new design allows the body and cap to be re-used with a new canister for a recommended number of times – probably every 10 canisters or once a year. 

Figures show 140 million pMDIs were dispensed in the USA in 2020 and 35 million were given out in the UK in 2017. 

Use of the EcoHale is estimated to save at least 1,460 tonnes of plastic a year across the UK and USA alone. Transport and packaging could also see “considerable” reductions over the current pMDI system. 

Mark Heynes, Design Director at Haughton Design.

Design Director Mark Heynes, who has been working on the project for a year, said: “It was our sustainability champion who was interested to know why inhalers can’t be reused. Having lived with asthma all my life, I jumped at the chance to make some improvements. 

“EcoHale started as an internal project for us, but we have had interest from clients in the US and the UK and held several discussions with the NHS about it as it fits well with their sustainability and cost-saving goals. 

“The new system might feel like a relatively small change to users but will have impressive sustainability benefits. 

“All the conversations we have had with people have come back to the same conclusion – there is no reason why this can’t work.” 

Haughton Design EcoHale
Haughton Design has now filed a patent for EcoHale.

One of the problems with current inhalers which stops canisters being replaced in them, is that the housing nozzle eventually becomes blocked. 

The whole team at Haughton Design was involved in coming up with the technical design features of EcoHale. 

The new product can be used with existing canisters and its design has seen the sharp edges of other inhalers replaced with softer, rounded ones. 

The project was helped along by a public and patient involvement activity jointly organised by Keele University and JG Technology Management, which captured the thoughts of people who use inhalers and people who care for those who used them.  

Haughton Design, which has filed a patent for EcoHale, is based at Staffordshire Technology Park and has a team of 30 internal and external members. 

Since being founded in 1995, the company has grown from a small engineering team with a focus on aerospace and test rigs, to a larger device development team with clients including global healthcare and pharmaceutical company Sanofi, designer and manufacturer Owen Mumford and Copley Scientific, a supplier of pharmaceutical testing equipment. 

Haughton Design’s first medical device project was won in 2012 and the firm has since continued to grow its works and skillset in this area. It is now named on over 35 global patents. 

Hayley Johnson

Senior journalist with over 15 years’ experience writing for customers and audiences all over the world. Previous work has included everything from breaking news for national newspapers to complex business stories, in-depth human-interest features and celebrity interviews - and most things in between.

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