Did you know that unused medicines flushed down the toilet cannot be fully removed by our water treatment facilities? According to Scientific American (“External Medicine: Discarded Drugs May Contaminate 40 Million Americans’ Drinking Water”), “Millions of us are flushing unused medications down the toilet.…” According to the report, our sewage treatment plants and septic systems have not been designed to treat these contaminants. Testing by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency indicates that medicine is ending up in our waterways.
While throwing unused medicines in the trash is better than flushing, medicines in landfills can still make their way into our waterways through landfill “garbage juice” that is collected and brought to water treatment plants.
In the same way we take used motor oil or paint thinner to special recycling facilities, unused medicines should be disposed of at “take back” locations, where they are securely removed and disposed of—usually by incineration.
Many of us are fortunate to have a take back drop box in our communities. (See below for a partial list.) It’s free, available 24 hours per day, and no ID is required. Many pharmacies also offer free medicine disposal. Feel free to peel off or obscure the patient’s name on labeling before placing the packaging in the receptacle. Sharps, needles, and thermometers are not accepted.
Unused medicine can be dropped off in secure receptacles located throughout the Twin Cities. Keep medicine in its container. While it is not necessary to obscure your name or prescription information, you may prefer to do so.