Proper disposal of medicines for a Greener Future
MPSA – Tricia Micallef
C urrently on campus there are a number of campaigns aiming towards a greener environment, but what is our part in all this as healthcare professionals?
A significant proportion of the Maltese population does not completely consume medications. Of this unused medication, a recent survey carried out by WasteServ Malta1 indicates that a mere 11% are being disposed of properly. It is thought that this is due to lack of awareness of disposal options.
It is important that proper disposal occurs as this prevents poisoning of children and pets, deters misuse by teenagers and adults and keeps our environment safer in that aquatic animals will not be harmed by medicinals flushed into the sewage, amongst other reasons.
So what are the available disposal methods?
Ideally, the medication should be returned to a GP or pharmacist, who would then proceed to collect and transport them to WasteServ Malta who would then dispose of them in a way that safeguards patient confidentiality. Larger health care facilities may make use of a number of companies which provide a collection and transport service to designated disposal facilities, i.e. WasteServ Malta Amenity Sites, in the appropriate waste and hazardous waste containers. Waste deposited in hazardous waste containers are treated by WasteServ Malta in a safe manner in compliance with local and foreign legislation.
As for those patients who dispose of medicines from a household, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives the following guidelines for safe disposal. One must first remove the medicines from their original container and mix the medicine with an undesirable substance such as cat litter. The mixture should then be placed into a sealable bag or a disposable container. Personal information should be concealed by means of a permanent marker, after which it is then safe to discard of the mixture with household waste.
It is important to note, however, that there are certain controlled substances that are especially harmful if ingested accidentally and so should not be thrown into household waste as this would provide an opportunity for a child or pet to accidentally take the medicine.