Chapter 2: Unwanted Medicine Take-back Programs: Case Studies
Collection programs are aimed at reducing the quantity of unused pharmaceuticals entering the environment and reducing the amount of drugs available for diversion, theft, or accidental poisoning. These initiatives provide the legal framework and the logistic resources required to allow the general public to turn in pharmaceuticals to be disposed of safely (most of the programs described here use hazardous waste incineration with emissions controls for most non-controlled medicines, while law enforcement normally incinerates controlled substances with other confiscated materials).
Typically, collections for household pharmaceutical waste accept unused or partially used medicines, including both prescription and over-the-counter medicines. These collections are beneficial because:
Pharmaceuticals accumulating in the household present
a public safety hazard;
Diverting medicines from the toilet or trash can decrease the
environmental pollution from wastewater treatment discharge
and unlined solid waste landfills;
Collections help communicate the environmental impact of
pharmaceutical waste to the responsible parties: consumers,
retailers, and manufacturers; and
A collection program provides the opportunity to inventory
unused drugs and can yield usage data that could prove
valuable to physicians in better managing their prescribing practices.
Several states, cities, and counties throughout the United States have successfully initiated long-term pharmaceutical collection programs, while others have organized single-day or annual collection events. Some programs have been specifically dedicated to collection of households’ medicines, while others have accepted pharmaceuticals as part of a larger household hazardous waste collection program.
There is a clear need to transfer knowledge about methods of addressing the issue of pharmaceutical collection and disposal among parties who might organize collection programs. This section contains a set of case studies of medicine collections that serve as models for future action throughout the United States. Following those are descriptions of three established large-scale take-back programs from other countries that have addressed much larger audiences.
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