Safe Medication Disposal for a Greener Earth

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Don't Flush or Dump!

Stop! Before you flush those pills or toss that ointment, consider the environment it will end up in. Our waste water treatment systems are not designed to remove medications, which means that your pills are going to end up in irrigation, the environment, and will live on in the form of an unhealthy future for our planet. 

Whether you have prescriptions that are expired, were filled in error, or simply unused, they should never, NEVER, go into your garbage or down the sink or toilet. Often these medications are surreptitiously taken from your trash by drug addicts, abused by experimenting teenagers, or eaten by pets and wild animals that get into your garbage.

So what should you do with these unused medications? Good question. I did a little poking around online, contacted hazardous waste departments, and got a variety of ideas. 

Some suggested dumping all medicines in sealable containers, and then covering the contents inside with water--just enough to saturate all of it. Tighten the lid and tape shut, marking it as destroyed medications. This, at the very least, makes the drugs unusable by any humans who might find this container.

I also learned that, in many areas, drop off stations are available for medications at free health clinics, pharmacies, fire stations, and hazardous waste drop sites, often located at solid waste management facilities. Some free clinics and homeless shelters take drop offs of slightly expired medications, as well. I suggest you let your fingers do the walking, as it appears to be different in every area I contacted.

While each municipality or county uses their own methods, each are trying to achieve the same goal--protect humans, animals and the environment. Here's a few suggestions you can check out in your area:

  • Call your local solid waste management office and speak with the hazardous materials department. They will advise you on your area's options for safe disposal. Some even know of local programs for donations.
  • If you have pills, tablets or capsules (not liquids), these can often be used well after their expiration, according to many sources. Contact free clinics, pharmacies and charities that ship medications to underdeveloped countries.
  • One final thought occurred to me and I made a call to my local physician--a humanitarian fellow whom I have often known to try to help folks out. He said that anytime someone has unused medications that are still sealed, he accepts them for free distribution to patients that lack healthcare insurance or sufficient funds to purchase these medicines.
If you have a family physician that is caring, you may find this same helpful attitude with a quick phone call. Remember, it's up to us to keep these toxic substances out of the environment that will continue to support our children and grandchildren. Let's take care of it.
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Tracy said...

I like your thought process on the no flushing or dumping policy but all honestly there aren't a lot of other options you have here.

Carrie J. Boyko said...

Thanks for your comment, Tracy, but I think you missed the point:

2-Destroy and seal before disposal
3-Turn in to hazardous waste facility

Our water management facilities do not remove meds from water.

Abbas Uddin said...

Some good point written.
Work of many people on this issue of plastic, there are several plastic materials recycling organic-based view. In February, for example, Imperial College London and bioceramic drug polymer biodegradable plastic from sugar derived from the decay of lignocellulosic biomass. There is also an existing plant more corn starch and plastics based on paper, including household goods and food packaging, bioplastics toys, plastic dynamic Cereplast. Metabolix also several lines of plastic products from corn, in cooperation with partner companies.

Terence said...

Absolutely awesome post.