Saturday, October 15, 2011

Toss 'Em! (The Safe Way)

Recently I traveled out of town. Because I often suffer from pollen-type allergies, I packed some over-the-counter allergy meds in case I was allergic to my destination. It's a good thing, because I was sneezing my head off within hours of being there. And I'm lucky, because I noticed the drugs were past their "use by" date, but they still did the trick.

Nonetheless, keeping wildly out-of-date medicines around is NOT a good thing.

So when I got home, I went through the family's medicine chest (actually a shoe box in the kitchen), and boy, did I find some lulus!

Stuff that expired three years ago:

Stuff that expired 12 to 18 months ago. I might give these a pass, because the "use by" dates printed on the bottles and packages are verrrrry conservative:

But more than two years ago? Nope! Toss it.

If your meds are not in their original box but are still in blister packs, look for a "use-by" date pressed or printed in to the packaging. This one is backwards to the camera (silly me!), but it expired way back in May 2003. Wow!

So, I hope you know that flushing your meds down the toilet is a No-No. That leads to polluted rivers and ultimately polluted oceans. And the fish they pull out of those polluted places? They can carry strange and bizarre things in their systems, like human growth hormones. Euwwww!

Also, dumping medicines in the trash is equally a bad idea. (You did know that, right?) Eventually, those medicines will dissolve in groundwater, leach out of the landfill, and seep into the water table, spreading their unwanted chemicals far and wide.

So, what are you supposed to do?

Go to your computer. Google "Hazardous Waste Disposal," along with the name of your town, city, or geographic area.

You will find websites devoted to accepting all sorts of hazardous waste, from leftover paint to broken-down computers, from batteries to leftover medicines.

Many of these collection sites are open on weekends or have extended hours during the week to accommodate people who work 9-to-5 jobs. Depending on where you live, the collection site may be on the edge of town, or right in the middle of the city.

Since you don't want to be running to the collection site every time you have a medicine that needs tossing, what should you do with all the stuff you're collecting in the meantime?

Stick it somewhere out of the way. I keep a paper bag in my laundry room for gathering up small stuff, like pills, household batteries, and such. For the big stuff, like leftover paint or e-waste, I have a shelf in the garage.

When one or both are full, I find a local collection site and drive everything over.

I'm always impressed at the efficiency and safety of the operation. Where I live, the collection folks wear hazmat suits, you stay in your car and pop the trunk, and they take it all out for you. As they are unloading your car, you can see others in the background, sorting things into like piles--medicines here, spent computer batteries there.

They are fast and courteous and very good at what they do.

And the empty cardboard boxes and plastic bottles that the medicines came in?

Recycle those, please.

Just don't wait 8-1/2 years to get around to doing it, as I did!

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