If you have expired or unused medications around the house, don’t be so quick to pour them down the drain or flush any unused pills down the toilet. Doing so has harmful impacts on our environment, with pharmaceuticals and toxins making their way to our streams, harming water quality and wildlife. Instead, you can safely dispose of medications at one of the new 29 disposal bins throughout Santa Clara County.
With over $200,000 in funding from the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the California Product Stewardship Council led the effort to expand opportunities to safely dispose of medication. The funds were provided by the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program’s grants and partnership component. The project objectives aligned with one of the program’s key priorities: to reduce toxins, hazards and contaminants in our waterways. In partnership with the City of San José and the County of Santa Clara Consumer and Environmental Protection Agency, this effort was part of the larger “Don’t Rush to Flush” campaign. The grant project also focused on education and outreach, producing the video below to educate county residents about the consequences of improper medicine disposal as well as the appropriate disposal method.
A survey included at the beginning of the project revealed 94 percent of participants received no instruction on proper disposal methods from their local pharmacies. And 98 percent of survey participants expressed a desire to return expired medication to local pharmacies.
Since the project took off in 2014, more than a ton-and-a-half, or 3,280 pounds to be exact, of prescription medication has been collected from the bins. The 29 collection sites installed in local pharmacies and a few fire and police departments have been so popular that some have to be emptied every week. For a list of collection sites near you click here. When the grant was first awarded, only 15 bins existed in the county. Now there are dozens of safe disposal bins, including the 29 installed as part of this project, as well as additional collection bins that retail pharmacies, like Walgreens, have installed.
Earlier this year, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors amended an ordinance related to safe drug disposal requiring drug manufacturers, or anyone involved in the production and distribution of pharmaceuticals, to help implement a safe drug disposal program also known as a “stewardship plan.”
Through its grants and partnerships program, the water district can continue supporting regional efforts to keep our waterways clean and healthy. To learn more about existing grants and partnership opportunities, visit http://www.valleywater.org/Grants.aspx.