U-M REPORT: Trash better than take-back programs for old drugs, U-M researchers say
Courtesy of U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Researchers from the university published their recent findings in journal Environmental Science and Technology — and determined that out of all the disposal options, including take-back programs and flushing the drugs down the toilet, trash bins have the least amount of negative environmental affects.
The most recent nationwide drug take-back program organized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration collected more than 500,000 pounds of unwanted prescription medications in April.
In take-back programs, old prescription drugs are incinerated.
The report said that burning the drugs means there are associated greenhouse gas emissions - and with take-back programs, people have to burn greenhouse gases to get to the drop-off location.
Flushing drugs down the toilet allowed the highest amount of drugs to enter the environment, according to the report. Municipal wastewater treatment plants systems do not test or treat the water for such chemicals.
"It's surprising to find out that even though there's this push towards take-back, trash seems to be the best option for several different reasons," said lead author Sherri Cook, of the University of Michigan department of engineering, in an interview with NPR.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers the following recommendations for disposing of prescription medications in trash:
- Do not crush tablets or capsules
- Mix them with a substance like kitty litter or used coffee grounds
- Place the mixture in a sealed container like a plastic bag
- Throw the container in the household trash