waste management for prescription drugs

How does waste management apply to home medical waste?

 

What do you do with old medications after they expire? Do you toss them directly into the dumpster? Do you flush them down the toilet or sink? Unfortunately, that’s definitely not how you want to get rid of unused prescription medications. Although it’s a common practice, flushing medications can actually harm the environment. A large part of practicing responsible personal waste management is disposing of household medical waste properly. And old prescription drugs aren’t the only form of household medical waste.

What items are considered “household medical waste?”

Household medical waste should not be thrown away just as any other piece of trash would be because it’s not your typical trash. Household medical waste includes items such as:

  • needles
  • syringes
  • prescription drugs
  • used gauze or bandages
  • any materials saturated with blood or bodily fluids

Why can’t I just toss it with the rest of my trash?

Consumers (especially those who care about environmental issues) should be aware of the issues that plague our world such as contaminated water and food sources for both people and animals. The police aren’t going to come banging down your door if you toss a bottle of old medication in the dumpster, but there are long-term consequences that can affect you, your neighbors, and the animals we share this world with.

Throwing needles, syringes, or bloodied gauze into your normal garbage for your trash service to pick up could seriously endanger waste management workers and cause injuries. Being pricked by a used needle has serious consequences so take a moment and think about that before carelessly tossing them into the trash. This situation may not apply to everyone, but for those who self-inject on a daily basis (such as individuals with diabetes) this is a situation that is constantly recurring.

Flushing unused prescription drugs down the drain can have negative effects on the environment including contaminating water sources (which could also contaminate food down the road) and hurting the helpful bacteria found in our septic systems and water waste treatment plants that rid our drinking water of harmful waste.

How should I dispose of it?

Instead of flushing solid pharmaceutical drugs down the drain, empty the contents into a thick plastic container. A laundry detergent container will work perfectly. Pour a small amount of dark soda into the plastic jug and once the pills have dissolved, add cat litter or coffee grounds to the mix to thicken the liquid. Seal the container with the cap and wrap it in duct tape before putting it in your trash bin or dumpster.

For liquid pharmaceutical drugs, you can repeat the process above without using dark soda. Just add a thickening agent like cat litter or coffee grounds, seal the container and put it in the normal trash.

Syringes and needles should be placed inside a puncture-proof plastic container (again, a laundry detergent container will work here) and sealed with the cap and duct tape. Dispose of the plastic container in your trashcan or dumpster for your trash service to pick up.

Clothing, bandages, or gauze that has been bloodied or soiled with bodily fluids should be sealed in a plastic bag and tossed with your normal trash. We recommend putting it in a trashcan or dumpster with a lid so animals don’t get into it before your trash service can pick it up.

Have additional questions about waste management or recycling services? Give Automated Waste Services a call today to learn more!