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Prevent Pollution and Addiction: Dispose of Medicine Properly

Aug 19, 2016

By Sara Verrillo, Digital Media Specialist

Disposing of medicine safely is an integral part of preventing both pollution and addiction.

According to a recent article, “more Americans are dying from opioids than at any time in recent history.”  As rates of addiction continue to rise, it’s more important than ever to ensure proper steps are taken to dispose of medicine safely.



The Best Disposal Method

The safest and most environmentally friendly way to dispose of medication is through local take-back and drop-off programs that are available at local police stations.

Click here to see drop box locations in Atlantic County.

Medicine dropped off here is securely monitored and later destroyed using high-temperature incineration at a permitted facility.

Residents are encouraged to dispose of all unused or expired pills, capsules, patches and even pet medicine. Please do not bring liquid medication or syringes to these drop-off boxes.



What’s Wrong with Flushing?

Medicine shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet because it pollutes our waterways. In an EPA study of water cleaned by 50 wastewater treatment facilities in the U.S., scientists found compounds from many popular medications.  Ratios were low enough that they wouldn’t affect human life, but the evidence shows they are polluting the water and disturbing aquatic life.

How About the Trash?

When thrown in the garbage, medication is susceptible to being found and used by others. It can also breakdown in the landfill and eventually contaminate groundwater. Placing medicine in the trash should be a last resort when take-back programs are not available. If using this method, the Department of Environmental Protection recommends following these steps:

  1. Keep medicine in the original container. Mark out any personal information on prescription bottles.
  2. Mix liquid medicine with undesirable substances like coffee grinds, cat litter or dirt. Dilute pills with water then mix with coffee grinds, cat litter or dirt.
  3. Place bottles in an opaque container or wrap in dark colored plastic.
  4. Hide the container in the trash. Do NOT recycle.

Get a Drop-Box in Your Town

Join Together Atlantic County has been helping to place safe disposal boxes in police departments and municipal buildings throughout the county and can provide them to any interested Atlantic County town for free. Please contact program coordinator Brian Wilson for more information.