Like everything else, drug products sometimes end up as waste. Lately I’ve tried to reduce the amount of waste I generate and dispose of it carefully. I’ve written before about how flushing unused drugs down the toilet, which was previously recommended, can harm the environment. But what’s the alternative?
Cities around the country have begun collection programs similar to the one just started by a hospital and various community groups Danvers, Massachusetts. The town placed a mailbox in its police office and invited residents to leave their unused drugs in it. The mailbox is emptied periodically, and the drugs are taken to a nearby incinerator. A local organization is even working with pharmacists to create a label for pill bottles to inform patients about the collection and disposal program.
Incinerating the drugs could be a way to lessen their environmental impact. Under the proper supervision, the gas from the process can be cleaned before it is released. Incineration certainly prevents medicines from being swallowed by fish or leaching into the ground. An equally important result of the program is that it helps keep drugs away from small children and people who might abuse the prescriptions.
For more information about the proper disposal of medicines, and to find a drug take-back program near you, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.