Last weekend I cleaned out the bathroom cabinets, taking out all the expired medicine, old toothbrushes, and five nose bulbs that we've somehow acquired. I went to throw everything away, but then pictured it all languishing in a landfill somewhere or floating in the ocean. So I thought I'd flush the medicine and then recycle the bottles.
But then I thought, is that even worse for the environment, to have, say, expired antibiotics in the groundwater? I asked a friend who is a water scientist of some sort what to do. Here's what she said:
The American Pharmacist Association (APhA) issued new guidelines for consumers for the disposal of medications, changing the advice of flushing expired or unused medicines, due to environmental concerns. They now suggest that the drugs be crushed or dissolved in water and mixed with kitty litter or a solid kitchen substance, placed in a sealed plastic bag and put into the trash. They also suggest removing and destroying all identifying personal information of the prescription labels, and checking for state or local programs or with area hazardous waste facilities for locations at which to deposit the disposal.
Also good to know: the Economic & Social Research Council has issued a report stating that recycling is not enough to combat the waste problem; we also need to consume less.
Recycling rates have risen, and the UK is on schedule to meet EU targets, but the key to dealing with our escalating waste problem lies in changing our buying habits and our attitudes to consumption, according to the authors of a new Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) publication.
Consumption: reducing, reusing and recycling (PDF, 522Kb), which accompanied a seminar in Belfast organised jointly with the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Northern Ireland, says that the benefits of recycling risk being undermined by the sheer quantity of waste being generated. If household waste output continues to rise by three per cent a year, the cost to the economy will be £3.2 billion and the amount of harmful methane emissions will double by 2020.