Disposing of unwanted medicines

How we choose to use and dispose of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) impacts water quality—the water that we drink, bathe in, and use for recreation. Most of us do not use all of the medication that we buy. But using the toilet or trash to dispose of medicine can put people, animals, and the environment at risk. So that raises the question—how do we manage unwanted medicines? The following recommendations come from Laura Kammin, pollution prevention specialist and others at Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant.

To limit the amount of unwanted medicines in your home, purchase only as much medicine as you need. When starting a new medication, ask your doctor to prescribe a limited quantity.  Don’t automatically purchase a 30-, 60-, or 90-day supply. That way, if the medication doesn’t suit you, less goes to waste. Do the same for your pet’s medications. Say “No” to samples if you know that you won’t use them Keep track of what medications are in the home so that you don’t inadvertently purchase a product that you already have. Store medicine at the proper temperature and humidity as recommended on the label. Due to high humidity, a bathroom is not always the best place to store medicine.

When disposing of unwanted medicines, don’t automatically flush medications down the toilet. Take unwanted medicine to a collection program, where the medicine is destroyed at regulated incinerators.  If a collection program is not available in your area, dispose of the medicine in the trash after following these steps. Keep medication in its original container. Remove or blacken out all personal information, but leave the name and dose of the medication visible. Add a safe and unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds to the medication and then replace the lid. Seal the medicine bottle in a leak-proof container such as a coffee can. Dispose of in the trash as close to pick-up day as possible.

For more information, contact Laura Kammin at lkammin@illinois.edu, or give her a call at 217-333-1115.

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About the author

Duane is an Educator with University of Illinois Extension in the Calhoun/Cass/Greene/Morgan/Scott unit. http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccgms/ http://web.extension.illinois.edu/state/

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