Friday, January 9, 2009

A Place for Prescriptions?

Good news, Chicago! We now have more options when it comes to recycling (or at least keeping out of the waste stream) expired and unused prescription drugs! Mayor Daley has partnered with the Department of the Environment and the Chicago Police Department and has installed pharmaceutical drop boxes in five Area Police Headquarters. These drop boxes are permanent, and available to residents 24/7. The USEPA funds the collection of these Rx and OTC drugs, while the IEPA funds their disposal.
Proponents of this program hope that, by providing a more convenient method of proper disposal, more residents will be inclined to recycle the unwanted contents of their medicine cabinets rather than flushing them down the toilet, which was long thought to be the best way to get rid of unwanted medicines. However, since trace amounts of pharmaceuticals have been showing up in our drinking water (yikes!), it's becoming increasingly clear that we need to find a better way.

The permanent drop-off boxes are available in addition to the City's Household Chemicals and Computer Recycling Facility (on Goose Island) and the occasional recycling events hosted by the DOE, and their placement in police stations is no accident. I've long thought that pharmacies should take back unwanted and expired drugs from their customers (I've heard that some actually do, but I've yet to find them), and perhaps someday they will, but I guess the problem is that if people drop off controlled substances (like OxyContin) or other strong medications, the pharmacies could get into legal trouble because these medications need to be carefully monitored and kept under lock and key at all times so they don't wind up in the wrong hands.

These new drop boxes are designed to keep drugs in and people out, where they remain under the watchful eye of area law enforcement until they can be removed and taken to the Goose Island facility for packaging, then transported to a state-of-the art disposal facility where they are safely incinerated. For the location of the new drop boxes, or to print an informational flyer, visit the city's web site at
Photo: City of Chicago

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