May 25, 2017

Recycling in Old Lyme: How to Dispose of Medications

disposaldrugsOld Lyme’s Solid Waste & Recycling Committee is exploring ways to improve recycling in Old Lyme. We are publishing several articles that lay out best practices.

Our first article reviewed Old Lyme’s current curbside program. This article covers the safe disposal of prescription and over-the counter medications. Note that we sometimes refer to “DEEP” (The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection)as a source of information.

First, never flush your unwanted medications down the sink or toilet; they pass through septic systems and sewage treatment plants essentially unprocessed. Flushed medications can get into our lakes, rivers and streams. Of real concern, a nationwide study done in 1999 and 2000 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) found low levels of antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids in 80 percent of the rivers and streams tested; further, research has shown that such continuous exposure to low levels of medications has altered the behavior and physiology of fish and other aquatic organisms.

Old Lyme residents have several options for safely disposing of medications but in all of these, keep the medications in their original container, but take care to protect your private information by either removing the label from the container or concealing it with a permanent marker.  The options are:

  • Occasional drug collection events sponsored by the Town or community organization.
  • Locally, watch for the Annual Drug Take Back Day sponsored by Lyme’s Youth Services Bureau.
  • Some police stations have a drop box drug disposal program where residents can anonymously discard unwanted or unused medications. Both the Clinton and Waterford Police Departments participate in the drop box program. A complete list of locations can be found at this link.
  • Some chain pharmacies (e.g., CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid) have disposal envelopes for prescription and over the counter drugs available for purchase; check with your pharmacy for details.
  • If the above doesn’t work for you, Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection suggests that you dispose of drugs in your household trash (where it will ultimately be incinerated) as follows: add hot water to dissolve the contents, or cover the contents with some noxious or undesirable substance; re-cover and place it all inside another larger container to ensure that the contents cannot be seen, and tape it shut.
  • unwanted pet medications should also be disposed as described above.
  • disposal of sharps: residents who are required to use injectable medications (e.g., insulin) can safely dispose of used needles and lancets by placing them in a puncture-proof, hard plastic container with a screw-on cap (like a bleach or detergent bottle). Tightly seal the container with the original lid and wrap with duct tape. Discard in a bag in your trash. Do not mix sharps with prescription drugs.
  • Some medications (e.g., chemotherapy drugs) require special handling; DEEP’s website provides more detail on disposing of such drugs and other medical supplies at this link.

This article covers methods for safe disposal of prescription and over-the-counter medications.  Our next article will cover the recycling of paint.

 Old Lyme’s Solid Waste & Recycling Committee meets monthly. If you have questions or comments, contact: Leslie O’Connor or TDGotowka@aol.com.

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