DEA Pushes Nationwide Medication Disposal Event

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is partnering with community law enforcement offices to offer nationwide collection events for unused prescription medications on September 25. It is the first nationwide program that will address the proper disposal of pharmaceutical waste.

According to the EPA, studies have shown that pharmaceuticals are present in our nation’s waterbodies, some causing ecological harm. However, to date, scientists have found no evidence of detrimental effects on human health. Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

Not all cities are required to participate, and the events are coordinated through law enforcement offices instead of solid waste offices, which typically handle recycling and disposal programs.

All events will be anonymous and offer the opportunity to dispose of prescription and over the counter controlled substances.

Items that will not be accepted include illicit substances such as marijuana and hypodermic needles. All events will take place at law enforcement agencies and run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Pharmaceuticals pose an interesting situation in the disposal sphere because there is currently no viable recycling solution, but improper disposal can lead to environmental issues.

An Associated Press investigation found that more than 250 million pounds of pills are flushed each year, which are incapable of being filtered out in sewage treatment plants and will likely end up back in the water supply.

However, flushing is the FDA’s recommended disposal solution for some medications because the risk of unwanted injestion is deemed greater than the potential impact on drinking water. For these pills, it is recommended that they are mixed with an undesirable substance such as cat litter or coffee grounds prior to disposal.

In many cases, the solid waste facilities that properly dispose of hazardous products will not accept pharmaceutical waste. In Earth911’s recycling directory, less than half (45 percent) of the household hazardous waste facilities accept pharmaceuticals for proper disposal.

The DEA is limiting its current collection program to the one-day events on September 25, and a full list of community events is available on the DEA website. If your city does not currently have an event scheduled, contact your local law enforcement agency to notify it of the DEA’s medication disposal program.

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Trey Granger

Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.
Trey Granger

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