The creation of a program that pays people money to bring in their unused medications to be properly disposed of would keep people from flushing their medications. While there are places to bring medications to be properly disposed of (hazardous waste collection centers, etc.) or one can simply put them in the trash can without an incentive program or a wide campaign about why people should throw meds out instead of flushing them, there’s really no way to keep people from doing it.
Though incentive programs might help, the main problem is likely due to consumer unfamiliarity with medicine disposal options (which can be found online) and the negative effects of flushing unused or expired medications down the toilet.
Consumers need to be made aware of the disposal alternatives that exist, which could be done by increasing the visibility of signs or advertisements for take-back programs or by regularly distributing educational materials at pharmacies about proper disposal.
I always had an idea that people could turn in their leftover pills to their doctor/pharmacist and receive a rebate on their next prescription. For example, the amount of pills returned would determine the amount saved for the next prescription. I agree with kendragon that consumers need more knowledge on the negative side effects of flushing pills down the drain. Perhaps doctors and pharmacists should be more informative to their clients when prescribing medications.
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