People unknowingly flush or throw prescription medications in the trash on a daily basis in mass quantities. Four billion prescriptions are written in the U.S. annually, and 35 to 40 percent of dispensed pharmaceuticals outside the hospital setting go unused, which generates more than 200 million pounds of pharmaceutical waste. This improper disposal of medication is becoming a big problem for people and for wildlife. The reproductive organs of fish in the St. Lawrence River near Montreal are showing disturbing changes linked to estrogen levels in the water that are now 90 times the usual levels. Even in Park City, what we might like to think of as pristine mountain water, is contaminated with estrogen, antidepressants and caffeine. Wastewater treatment facilities, thus far, don’t have the technology to remove these drugs from the drinking water supplies. The problem isn’t any better when it comes to bottled water, so it’s critical to protect our water so we can keep drinking it.
A company called Sharps Compliance, which helps doctors and vets recycle their medical waste, has just rolled out a program for safe medication disposal. Right now, it’s available at over 18,000 retail pharmacies nationwide through Walgreens, Rite Aid and Kroger. People can now safely dispose of their unused medications through the participating pharmacy, which is so easy. If your pharmacy isn’t enrolled in the program, you should take your leftover prescription drugs to the local police station where they will dispose of them properly. Or tell your pharmacy about the program. They might be interested in signing up or they may have a program of their own in which you can participate.
More About Sharps Compliance
We interviewed this company on This Green Earth and what they’re doing is groundbreaking. So far, they have prevented improper disposal of more than 600 million syringes from the solid waste stream and kept over 90,000 pounds of unused medications from potentially harming people and the environment. They turn recycled syringes into a component used in making cement. So someday that needle used on you at the hospital could be making the road you’re driving on. Cool.