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Drug Take-Back Event in South Portland, Maine Encourages Proper Disposal of Prescription Drugs

Release Date: 02/08/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: Sheryl Rosner, EPA Office of Public Affairs, (617) 918-1865

For Immediate Release: February 8, 2005; Release # sr050201

BOSTON - In an effort to encourage proper disposal of household prescription drugs, the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc. with funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and in collaboration with Maine DEP, CVS/pharmacy, and the South Portland Police Department, conducted a prescription drug take-back event at South Portland's Mill Creek CVS/pharmacy.

The pilot was a huge success allowing citizens the opportunity to bring in unwanted or outdated medications for proper disposal. The drugs collected through the program will be incinerated in order to prevent them from making their way into our waterways.

Increasingly, prescription and non-prescription medications, many of which are not effectively destroyed by sewage treatment plants, are finding their way into streams and drinking water supplies. A study conducted four years ago by the United States Geological Survey found that 80 percent of 139 streams sampled across 30 states detected very low concentrations of chemicals commonly found in prescription drugs.

By the end of Saturday’s event, 52 people from 17 Maine communities brought in 50 gallons of medications for proper disposal. This included almost 1,300 medications that were controlled substances, with an estimated street value of over $5,000. The public brought in more than 700 containers of medicine overall. Included in the list of substances collected were antibiotics, antidepressants, anti-cancer drugs, tranquillizers and estrogen.

“Maine is at the forefront of addressing this serious environmental issue as more and more studies confirm that expired and unused pharmaceuticals should be properly destroyed to prevent them from reaching our nation’s waters,” stated Robert W. Varney, EPA’s regional administrator. “The importance of this complicated problem is just coming to light – this pilot demonstrates that successfully tackling this issue will require the collaboration and cooperation of many parties.”

“This one-day event prevented more than 55,000 pills from making their way into our waters and helped educate consumers about the importance for proper disposal of medical waste," said Lynn Rubinstein, Executive Director of the Northeast Recycling Council. "We are hopeful that the success of this pilot will pave the way for similar projects in the future."

Response was enthusiastically positive, with many folks commenting that they just never knew what to do with all those old prescriptions. Maine legislation this session will address this increasingly serious environmental problem by considering turn-in, mail-back, and proper disposal mechanisms for unneeded pharmaceuticals.

“CVS was pleased to support the Northeast Recycling Council and the EPA by hosting the nation’s first-ever drug take-back program in a retail pharmacy setting,” said Eileen Howard Dunn, Vice President of Corporate Communication and Community Relations at CVS/pharmacy. “There is potential for this type of program to have a real impact in educating the public about environmentally-safe disposal of medication, and we look forward to exploring additional leadership opportunities on this issue.”

Related Information:
Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling
Incinerators