Removing pharma waste from the community

tablets and capsulesOn the Clinical Waste Discussion Forum we have for some years now been pushing for community-wide hazardous waste take-back arrangements, organised perhaps by local authorities who might make available better if temporary community collection points for drop-offs and collections.

It happens in America, where the local police and fire departments arrange community drop-off or collections every 6 to 12 months. This gives residents the change to get VOC-rich DIY chemicals and paints out of the shed, unused prescription and non-prescription drugs from the bathroom cabinet for more appropriate disposal.

For drug waste, the collection prevents well-intentioned disposal to a black sack or worse, down the toilet, of accumulation in the home to create a risk of accidental poisoning.

Does it work?  Well, yes, it does, and a search of the Forum will identify many examples.  One latest report catches the eye, when Sheriffs collect more than 11 tons of drugs during state-wide ‘take-back’.

The MSA organized the statewide effort when the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s Take Back Initiative concluded.
Maine’s 16 sheriffs headed up their county’s drug take-back efforts, and the MSA ensured the collected medications were picked up and destroyed. With the help of Hart Transportation, the sheriffs delivered 23,520 pounds of unused medication to ecoMaine’s waste-to-energy plant in Portland. A total of 283 pounds of that final sum derived from drugs handed over the authorities in Sanford.

“This was a huge effort and would not have been possible without the assistance of our corporate partners — Hartt Transportation, who donated the truck and driver, ecoMaine, who waived all fees for the disposal, Poland Springs Water and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency,” York County Sheriff William King stated in a news release.

The collected medications were deposited in a hopper, where a robotic arm picked it up. EcoMaine uses non-recyclable waste as fuel to produce steam-generated electricity, and, in the process, reduces the waste bulk by more than 90%.

The collection of 23,520 pounds is the second highest Drug Take Back collection in Maine, according to King; the federal Drug Enforcement Administration collected in excess of 27,000 pounds last spring.

The MSA plans to replicate this take-back program biannually, every spring and fall “because all of Maine’s sheriffs believe it is a worthwhile effort,” King added.

Good luck.  That is a vast contribution to environmental protection and home safety.  It takes money, but overall would be hugely cost-effective. It takes effort. And it takes a degree of flexibility and co-operation between the various agencies and organisations that have a stake in this.  In the UK, the excuse if generally one of cost; the reality of a lack of the will to make an effort, and the sometimes reluctant and occasionally obstructive attitude of at least some of those involved in what should really be a win-win situation.



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