Trash, don’t flush
SCIENTISTS ARE INCREASINGLY warning us not to flush expired medicines.
At issue are the pharmaceutical and personal-care items that defy traditional
wastewater treatment—such as antibiotics, painkillers, estrogen, anti-depressants and blood-pressure medicines—leaving traces in waterways and raising
worrisome questions about potential health and environmental effects.
While the Environmental Protection Agency studies whether to develop
formal recommendations, here are a few tips for disposing of old meds.
Crush it, bag it, trash it
Trash is better than sewer, with precautions in case children or animals
get into it. Break up capsules and crush tablets, then put the remains back in
the original container with its child-resistant cap. Tape it up and double-bag
Ask when the trashman cometh
Check with your local hazardous waste collection agency—where
you’re supposed to take motor oil and batteries—to see if they accept
Check your drugs at the door
Ask your pharmacy if it will take back expired drugs, as is common in
Canada and Australia. Some pharmacies have programs to incinerate or
otherwise dispose of inventory they can’t sell, as well as consumers’ leftover
medicines. (Costco Pharmacies will accept expired medications for disposal.)
—T. Foster Jones