We believe health should always be the first priority, and medications can be an important tool to help you stay healthy. However, pharmaceutical pollution is a growing environmental problem.
Drugs can enter the waterways from landfill runoff, being incorrectly disposed of (even by hospitals), or through urine. Medicines like those used to treat diabetes, depression, and antibiotics can be detected in our rivers, lakes, and even our drinking water. Not only it is unpleasant to think of unwittingly ingesting medications, but these chemicals are taking an unknown and likely harmful toll on animals and plants too.
The easiest way to keep medications and pill bottles from polluting the environment is to not take any medications or supplements you do not need. Regularly review your current medications with your physician to ensure you are only taking what is necessary for your health.
Drug Take-Back Programs
Check your local pharmacy or hospital for a drug take-back program. This is a great way to safely dispose of expired or unwanted medications. This helps protect the environment from toxins and keeps dangerous medications out of reach of children or others at risk in your home.
Walgreens has a safe medication disposal program where you can drop off prescription and over-the-counter medications (including pills, ointments, lotions, and liquids), vitamins, and pet medications.
Disposal by Flushing
The FDA says that certain medications be disposed of by flushing down the toilet with minimal environmental impact. Here is a list of those medications from the FDA.
Disposal in Household Trash
If your medication can’t be safely disposed of by flushing down the toilet and you don’t have a drug take-back program available to you, you can mix the medication with something like cat littler, coffee grounds, or dirt. Then, seal the mixture in a plastic bag, and throw the bag into your household trash.
While we realize that you have little control over the containers in which your prescription medications come, we think it is important to select vitamins and supplements from companies that use glass and metal containers. One such company is Solgar, which can be found on Amazon.
Pill Bottle Disposal
Think back to our three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. If you can’t reduce the number of medication bottles you have, you can reuse the pill bottle or give it to Matthew 25: Ministries, an international charity that either sends the pill bottles to places in need of medical care or recycles them.
In many countries, pills are dispensed in scraps of paper – which exposes them to the elements and makes them easily accessible to children. We may see these pill bottles as a nuisance and a waste, but others will gladly use them to store medications.
Most municipal recycling centers can also accept empty pill bottles. Because plastic can only be recycled once or twice, this should be your last resort. Make sure to scratch out or otherwise remove your name from the label before disposing of the container for your privacy.
If for some reason you don’t have access to a municipal recycling program, you can send your empty supplement and vitamin bottles to TerraCycle’s free Supplement the Earth Recycling Program. TerraCycle also has another program, although not free, for recycling empty over-the-counter medications and supplement containers.
If you have any questions or suggestions regarding safe disposal of medications, please leave us a comment!
Disclaimer: We receive no financial compensation for any of the products recommended or shared anywhere in this blog.