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How to Safely and Properly Throw Away Old Medicines

chemical wasteHospitals and health care facilities might have their own, highly regulated, infectious medical waste disposal methods, but what about homeowners? What is the everyday individual to do with the medical hazardous waste and chemical waste they may wind up producing at home?

For decades, people were told to dump their medical and chemical wastes down the toilets, but then in 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey sampled 130 streams in 30 different states, and found that 80% of them had measurable concentrations of prescription and nonprescription drugs, steroids, and reproductive hormones. As it turned out, flushing hospital wastes and chemical wastes down the toilet was a fairly destructive practice.

Nowadays, there’s a much safer, environmentally friendly way to dispose of chemical wastes. Here’s how.

Determine If Prescriptions Are Expired.
Determining the expiration date of a drug is a fairly difficult thing to do. Although manufacturers print a “use by” date on their bottles or packages, this number does not necessarily mean it isn’t safe to take the medicine after the date has passed. However, for a patient’s safety, it’s best to toss medicines that have either reached, or almost reached, their expiration dates, as the stability of the drug cannot be guaranteed.

Mix Them With Coffee Grounds and Toss Them.
When throwing out expired, or unwanted medicines, it’s best to mix the chemical waste with old, used coffee grounds. Put grounds in a plastic, seal-able container, and mix the medicine in so that it’s not just on the bottom or on the top, but thoroughly in there. Then, close and seal the container, and throw it away.

Bring Them to a Drop Off Site.
There are also drop off sites patients can use to dispose of their old, expired medicines, too. Typically, police stations and pharmacies have such drop off sites, and if they don’t, they’ll be able to let you know where you can find one.

The medical and chemical waste disposal service industry is worth $5 billion for a reason. Hospitals and patients generate an exorbitant amount of medical waste every day, after all. One ebola patient, for example, will generate eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste in a single day. Yet, it’s also not a perfect industry — about 16 billion injections are administered worldwide every year, but not all of the needles and syringes are properly disposed of afterwards, for example — which is all the more reason you need to be careful about how you dispose of medical and chemical waste at home.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.