We're examining how we deal with medicines - particularly their life cycle and disposal. We want to look at how we can reduce the amount of medicine that comes into our homes, reuse what is there and how to recycle what we can no longer use.
Why It Matters
- If flushed or put down the drain, medicines in a septic system can destroy beneficial bacteria necessary for the system to operate.
- Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove or process many compounds found in medications that end up being discharged into our surface and groundwater.
- A study done by the US Geological Survey in 1999 found that in 80% of the streams sampled there were detectable levels of compounds found in common medications.
What You Can Do
- Call your pharmacy and see if they will accept your used medicines. Some pharmacies are doing this as a community service.
- Contact your local hazardous waste drop-off location and see if they accept medicines. Here in Oakland county, you can call SOCCRA at 248-288-5153 and make an appointment to take in your medicines. Click here to find out where your center is. They collect products such as:
- regular and over-the-counter medication
- medication samples
- veterinary medications
- If such a program is not available, put medications in your trash. DO NOT PUT INTO THE TOILET OR SINKS.
- To prevent misuse:
- for solid meds, add a little water to the container to at least partially dissolve them. Cover container with tape, such as duct tape.
- for liquid meds, add salt, charcoal or dry spice to discourage further use. Cover container with heavy tape, such as duct tape.
- for blister packs, cover with heavy tape, such as duct tape.
- double bag the contained drugs or put into another container before putting them into your garbage bag. This helps prevent runoff if the bag is torn open.
- NOTE: This is better than it sounds. Most landfills now have a clay cap and a liner. When substances leach out, they gather at the bottom of the landfill and a leachate collection system sends them to a treatment plant. source:Safe Medication Disposal video
- To prevent misuse:
- First, make sure you are taking all of the medication, as your doctor advises.
- Also, one way to better ensure you won't have too much medication, get the minimum amount of the drug available and go for more if needed.
- Check your cupboards before going out to get more over-the-counter drugs, such as ibuprofen.
- If you are being prescribed a new medicine and you are not sure if it will be right for you, why not ask the doctor for a sample first? Then you won't be stuck with extra meds that you can't use.
Reuse and Recycle
- You can take medicines you are no longer using to SOCCRA (or your local recycling center).
- CVS pharmacy will not take medicines - they refer you to SOCCRA.
- Since 2000, at least 37 states are enacting drug recycling programs.
- The NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) notes that most state programs allow the return of drugs in single use or sealed packaging from state programs, nursing homes and other medical facilities.
- All donated drugs must not be expired and must have a verified future expiration date.
- Controlled substances, defined by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), are usually excluded and prohibited.
- A state-licensed pharmacist or pharmacy to be part of the verification and distribution process.
- Each patient who is to receive a donated drug must have a valid drug form in his/her own name.
- How Do I Dispose of Expired Medicines? from wisegeek.com
- A Remedy for Residential Drug Disposal
- Medicine Disposal Guidelines video from Washtenaw County
- Map of Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste Contacts - Michigan
- SOCCRA recycling center for many of us in southeast Michigan
- Should I Really Be Concerned About The Expiration Dates on Medications? from agingcare.com.