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Smart Waste—Disposing of Chemicals the "Green" Way

Disposing of medicineFor the average consumer, when we think about "going green", we think about recycling, wasting less, and using green products. These are all helpful steps towards living a more sustainable and environmentally friendly life. Of course, as we all know that truly going green entails many more steps than recycling your milk jugs and egg cartons. Researching energy efficient appliances, buying locally grown and organically processed food, wasting less water—all of these things are wonderful steps towards becoming a better citizen of the planet. That being said, there are many areas of going green that eco-conscious individuals often overlook. 

While cutting waste and recycling items that can be recycled is a wonderful start, we should carefully consider the way in which we dispose of other products as well. Things like cleaners, medications, and other substances with potentially dangerous chemicals must be disposed of or recycled in careful ways. These things, when improperly removed from a home, can pose a serious threat to the water supply and, therefore, all living organisms in an area. 

Cleaning Products

With the more eco-conscious society that we live in today, there are numerous organic, natural, and nontoxic cleaner options available to consumers. These products pose less of a threat to the environment and are safer products to keep around the house than traditional cleaning supplies. However, if you do have leftover cleaning products that you'd like to dispose of, there are some guidelines you should follow to do so in the safest and greenest way. Our first inclination when wanting to ditch old and unused cleaning products is to just wash them down the drain. This is the way you can dispose of them. By running them down the sink, you risk contaminating the water with those chemicals. Every city has a "hazardous" waste disposal plan set up for citizens. Most recycling plants or waste centers have an area that you can drop off cleaners and other chemicals for them to dispose of properly. This service includes things like tires, oil, and cleaning products, but most places will charge a small fee. You can also look into local groups and organizations that will do monthly pickups for hazardous materials to be disposed of.

 Old Medications

Medications are another substance that can be tricky to dispose of properly and in an eco-friendly way. How do you normally dispose of old, unused, or expired medications? Many people dump them down the toilet or simply throw them in the trash. This can be a very dangerous situation for many different reasons. If prescription (and not prescription) meds are flushed down the toilet or thrown away, those chemicals almost always break down and get into the water. This is hugely harmful to the species and ecosystems relying on that water. Even trace amounts of certain medications in the water can cause a huge issue to natural systems around that water and can cause health issues to populations using that water as their drinking source (this includes us). With billions of prescriptions being written each year, the issue of proper disposal is only growing. 

There are many ways to safely dispose of old or unused medications. One of the best options for disposing of medications is to take old medications to the pharmacy. This is the absolute safest option for your own health and the best option for the environment. Most pharmacies will accept unwanted or unused prescription drugs and safely dispose of them. You should certainly call your local pharmacy before taking your old meds, but most pharmacies will accept them to dispose of. If you can't take them somewhere to be properly disposed, then you should take measures to dispose of them properly yourself. First things first, never flush any meds down the toilet or wash them down the drain. The goal is to keep these substances out of our water system. Take all pills or substance out of their pill containers before you put them in the trash and try to mix them with cat litter or coffee grinds in your trash. These substances will deter animals from stealing them from the trash, if the opportunity arises. 

While wasting less is absolutely a vital aspect of going green, wasting green is also an important step to take. Don't underestimate the power of disposing of things in an environmentally friendly and eco-conscious manner.


Amelia Wood, a blogger and freelance writer. She loves to offer advice to the curious job-seeker and is passionate about careers in medicine as well as ways in which medicine impacts our society, culture, and environment. Direct any questions or comments to [email protected].