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Medicine Cabinet Cleanout

Eco-Disposal Tips from Big Green Head

by Karen Ferris

Meds DisposalSpring cleaning is a revitalizing ritual that helps us refresh and renew our homes. March may be too early to pack away winter’s heavier blankets and linens, but cabinets are fair game, and the medicine cabinet is a good place to start. Sorting through bottles of pills and tablets presents a quandary, though: How can we safely dispose of old, expired medications?

In the past, people were encouraged to flush their pills down the toilet to avoid having them discovered by kids and mistaken for candy. While it’s certainly important to keep old medicine from harming children, the flushing method hurts the environment, so it’s bad not only for youngsters, but for everyone on the planet.

An Associated Press investigation found drugs in the drinking water of 24 major metropolitan areas across the country. Wastewater treatment cannot remove these drugs completely, so any medicines flushed down the toilet ultimately end up in our water supply and the environment. This buildup of medications can poison wildlife, especially fish, and cause mutations. It may also strengthen the ability of harmful bacteria to resist antibiotics and increase the likelihood that wildlife and humans will consume low levels of hormone-disrupting and mood-altering chemicals, with unknown long-term effects on health. For safer, greener disposal of old and expired medications, try these options:

National Drug Take-Back Day – April 27. Coordinated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, collection sites provide a safe means of disposal. For more information, visit

Local pharmacies – Some will take back expired medicine, so call a few to check their policies.

Visit – The nonprofit offers helpful tips at

Karen Ferris is the founder of Big Green Head, a small Earth-friendly company based in Worthington that offers green articles, tips and products at

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