A: If only most consumers—and health care facilities—were on your wavelength and knew better than to dump drugs down the toilet and into our waterways, where hormones, for instance, can wreak havoc on the reproductive systems of amphibians and fish. More than 250 million pounds of pills are flushed every year by the health care industry alone. an investigation by the Associated Press found. Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey have found drugs and hormones along with synthetic pesticides and other chemicals in streams and other water bodies nationwide. And last year, pharmaceutical residues were found in California aquifers used for drinking water.
It’s also a bad idea to toss medications in the trash, unless you remove labels and even grind pills down so that they can’t be pilfered.
Wouldn’t it be great if the drug industry followed the trend of other companies and took their products back? As it happens, CVS Sharps Compliance Corp., a Houston-based medical waste management company, provides a medication mail-back system in CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, Rite-Aid and Winn-Dixie pharmacies. It’s a convenient way to return expired and unwanted pharmaceuticals.
The exception is controlled substances, which you can find listed here. These will have to be disposed of along with other Household Hazardous Waste. (For a center near you, go to earth911.com and search pharmaceuticals by zip code.)
Mindy Pennybacker is Whole Living’s eco expert. She regularly answers readers' green-living questions. She is also editor of GreenerPenny.com and author of Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices.