Pharmaceutical drop box collects 60 pounds of pills in first year



Audrey Fletcher

One year ago, Portage County Solid Waste Management placed a pharmaceutical collection box in the parking lot of the Kent Police Department.

Since then, residents have dropped off more than 60 pounds of unwanted or expired pills to be disposed of.

Bill Steiner, Portage County Solid Waste Management director, was at a seminar when the idea for this program was presented to him by the Summit County Health Department.

If a disposal box is not available, the EPA suggests people take the following steps to dispose of unwanted medicines:

1: Take all medicines out of the original containers.

2: Mix these medicines with an undesirable substance such as coffee grounds or cat litter.

3: Put this into a disposable container with a lid, such as a plastic food container, or a sealable bag.

4: If the medicine was a prescription, remove all personal information from the label.

5: Everything can now be placed in the trash.

“We get a lot of phone calls with residents wanting to know ‘What do I do with this?’ ” Steiner said. “Because a lot of times, the pharmacies where you buy them don’t want them back.”

A bigger problem was the level of pharmaceuticals appearing in the county’s water supply. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, drugs poured down the sink or flushed down the toilet can pass through any treatment systems and might end up in rivers and lakes because most water treatment plants are not equipped to remove them.

“The plants can’t completely remove all the pharmaceuticals. So basically they are going out of the sewer system, or, as Kent calls their facility, the Water Pollution Control Station, back into the water supply,” Steiner said. “The more people do that, that level starts building up more and more.”

Ravenna already had a collection box at the time, so Steiner said it was used as a model.

First, a box was placed at the county sheriff’s office, and then a total of six boxes were placed at police departments in Aurora, Streetsboro, Kent and Brimfield and also at the campus police departments at Hiram College and Kent State. Each box costs $488.50, and Steiner said Portage County Solid Waste Management’s operating budget funded the project.

Of all the cities approached, not one turned them down, Steiner said.

“(The police departments) knew it was a way to get (pharmaceuticals) off the street; they were safe, they were secure and once they are in those boxes, they are under police protection, which is a nice thing to have,” Steiner said.

The EPA also states that proper disposal has other benefits such as the following:

  • keeps medicines from entering the water supply through flushing drugs down the toilet or pouring drugs down the sink
  • helps prevent accidentally taking wrong medicines, too much medicine or expired medicine
  • deters misuse of prescription drugs by teens and adults
  • prevents accidental poisoning of children and pets

In Kent, residents can drop off solid doses of expired or unwanted prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines.

Lieutenant Bob Treharn checks the box at the Kent Police Department and empties it once a week or more if needed. He takes all the pills out of the containers for storage purposes and logs what is there. Treharn said residents drop off a range of medicines, and no medicine is especially prevalent.

The doses are eventually incinerated at the sheriff’s department, and Portage County Solid Waste Management helped pay for the incinerator. Since the boxes were purchased, there has been no additional cost for the program.

Each box is under surveillance 24 hours a day.

Treharn and Steiner said they feel the program has been a success.

“Nobody wants to drive very far to get rid of a couple of prescription bottles that may have less than half a dozen doses left in them,” Steiner said. “The nice thing of it is, most of (the boxes) are in more populated areas of the county.”

Because the Kent Police Department has a box, Treharn said it will be one of the drop off locations for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Take Back Initiative on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Contact Audrey Fletcher at [email protected].