As Earth Month winds down, explore some environmental pointers, including how to donate (gently used) wheelchairs, what to do with empty pill bottles (earbud/jewelry case, anyone?) and where to dispose of unused meds (April 28, 2018, happens to be National Prescription Drug Takeback Day at 5,000+ sites across the U.S… read on!).
1. Donate unused medical supplies. Before adding unused supplies or gently used equipment to your trash heap, see if they’re on the wishlist of organizations that accept medical surplus, such as InterVol, Medshare and Project C.U.R.E. (click to see lists of what they’ll take).
InterVol’s general rules of thumb for donations?
- Would you want the item/supplies used on you?
- Does it have one year left before the expiration date, if it goes in the body?
- Does the equipment function as intended (no broken or missing parts)?
- Is the equipment in good shape (no rust, rips, tears, etc.)?
2. (Properly) hand over unused medications. Few organizations accept prescription drug donations from individuals, and drug donation and redistribution laws vary by state. Look into the regulations where you live and comment below if you know of any organizations that accept donated medications (such as Insulin for Life, which collects some insulin and diabetes supplies).
Note: This Saturday is National Prescription Drug Takeback Day (April 28, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration twice a year so that people can bring unused or expired medications to a local collection site for safe disposal (search for a site near you). In the last Takeback Day in October 2017, people dropped off 456 tons of drugs.
3. Safely dispose of unused drugs and medical waste on your own. Cancer.net offers these pointers for medication disposal: “If you decide to take the matter into your own hands, you should always follow the disposal instructions found on the drug label or the patient information leaflet that comes with the prescription. Do not flush medicines down the toilet or sink unless this information specifically tells you to.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists the few medications that should be flushed— but check with your local water treatment and/or sanitation department about any rules or regulations.
4. Find new uses for empty pill bottles. An Indianapolis-based charity called The Malawi Project organized a hugely successful pill bottle collection drive to send the ubiquitous orange containers to the African country hit hard by HIV (where people were carrying their pills loose or wrapped in paper). After a million pill bottles quickly poured in, the organization stopped accepting donations — but they still encourage people look into other organizations still collecting them, or contact local animal shelters to see if they need them.
Recycle Nation says that few communities accept the orange (#5 plastic) pill bottles in their recycling programs, but a company called Preserve collects them at natural food stores across the country (check out this map) to use in their recycled plastic products. CVS Pharmacy is reportedly working on pill bottle recycling programs.
People have come up with lots of other creative ways to reuse or upcycle pill bottles — just a few neat ideas include:
- “Hide-a-key” container (with a rock glued on top)
- Earbud/headphone holder
- Jewelry case
- Mini sewing kit
- Child-proof storage for quarters (for parking or laundry), pins, nails/screws, medical sharps or other small items
5. Go paperless with your insurance company and doctor’s office. Opt for electronic communication, if you’re comfortable with it. Many providers now offer email and/or text reminders rather than snail mail postcards or phone calls. Also, hospital gowns can be a drag for patients, and the paper ones contribute to medical waste. Depending on the medical setting and type of visit, ask your healthcare provider if it’s necessary to fully undress and wear a gown or use other (optional) disposable items for your visit.
Happy Earth Month!
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