Safely Disposing of Expired and Leftover Medications is Easy

Medicine Cabinet with Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medicines

Is your medicine cabinet crammed with expired over-the-counter medications and leftover prescription drugs? If so, it is easy to dispose of them safely.

Recently, as part of my household decluttering and minimizing project, I cleared out and then cleaned our bathroom medicine cabinets, drawers, and cupboards. During this process, I used a cardboard box to collect expired over-the-counter medications like cough syrup and allergy pills and prescription drugs left over from my treatment for breast cancer.

Flushing these medications down the toilet or tossing them in the trash did not seem like an environmentally friendly disposal method so I searched online for a solution.

I learned about how keeping expired and unneeded medications on hand can be dangerous for people in your household and how flushing medications down the toilet can contaminate water and harm aquatic wildlife.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could safely dispose of my unwanted medications at the pharmacy in the small town where I live, so that is what I did.

It was easy. I took my cardboard medication collection box to the pharmacy, gave it to one of the store clerks, and she dumped it in the medication disposal kiosk.

You too can keep yourself and your family (including pets) safe by periodically clearing out your medicine cabinet of expired and leftover medications and disposing of them in a safe and environmentally friendly way.

Why Should You Get Rid of Expired and Leftover Medications?

It may seem like having expired and leftover medications in your medicine cabinet in no big deal. However, it could be.

Here are some reasons for getting rid of unneeded medications.

  • Taking someone else’s medication on purpose or accidentally ingesting it can lead to overdose, poisoning, and even death (even things like cough syrup can be abused). Anyone with access to your medicine cabinet including visitors can take your medications.
  • Unintentionally taking expired medications or mixing incompatible medications can be harmful.
  • A cluttered medicine cabinet makes it more difficult to find the current and correct medications you may need.

Why not Flush Medications down the Toilet or Toss them in the Trash?

You may not realize that wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals flushed down the toilet or drain. These substances can pass through the water treatment process and end up in lakes, streams, oceans, aquifers, and groundwater. Traces of painkillers, antibiotics, hormones, anti-depressants, and other drugs can harm aquatic wildlife and even end up in your drinking water.

Medications tossed in the trash can present problems too. People and pets can retrieve them either on purpose or accidentally. Medications that are sent landfills can leach into the soil and cause contamination.

With a little effort, you can get rid of your unwanted medications without flushing them down the toilet or tossing them in the trash.

Medication Disposal Programs

Although, there is no national medication disposal program, there are programs all across the country. Partnerships between pharmacies, municipal waste management authorities, and law enforcement agencies make these programs possible.

Medicine Disposal Kiosk at Cambria Drug & Gift Pharmacy
Medicine Disposal Kiosk at Cambria Drug & Gift Pharmacy

This is how they work.

Programs do vary by municipality, county, or state but usually involve going to a pharmacy, police station, or other location and putting your medications in a collection kiosk or obtaining a special envelope and mailing them to a collection facility.

There may be special handling requirements for disposing of controlled substances (medications that require a paper prescription, like Vicodin).

After being collected through these various programs, unwanted medications are picked up and transported to waste facilities where they are destroyed, often by being incinerated.

National Take-Back Initiative

The DEA Diversion Control Division offers periodic take-back events where you can drop off your medications at a designated location on a specific day.

The next national event is scheduled for Saturday, April 29, 2017, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

After April 1, you can visit the National Take-Back Initiative website to search for a drop-off location near you.

I hope that you are convinced that clearing out your medicine cabinet and getting rid of expired and leftover medications is a good idea and that disposing of them in an environmentally safe manner is worth a little extra effort.

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Vinegar Removes Hard Water Deposits from Dishes like Magic

Author's Dishes, Glasses, and Flatware after Vinegar Cleaning
A Sampling of the Author’s decades old dishes, glasses, and flatware after being cleaned with distilled white vinegar.

Is hard water leaving a cloudy film on your dishes and glasses? Vinegar is an eco-friendly solution that will make your dishes look and feel new.

Like many Americans, I live in an area with hard water, which results in mineral deposits (mostly calcium and magnesium) building up on everything from dishes to showerheads. If this sounds familiar, you probably have hard water too.

In an attempt to counteract hard water deposits, we had been routinely using a rinse aid in our dishwasher but it was not entirely successful. Sometime during the almost ten years, we have lived in our current home, our glasses took on a hazy look and a chalky film formed on our dishes to the point that I could feel it when I was taking pieces out of the dishwasher. Yuk.

Over the years, I did notice that mineral deposits were forming on our dishes and the insides of our coffee mugs had become stained. It just did not bother me, at least not enough to do anything about it, until a few weeks ago.

One Thing Leads to the Next

You know how one thing leads to the next and so on. That is what happened. I am in the middle of a decluttering project and I am trying to adopt a minimalist approach to owning stuff, which means living happily with less stuff.

While decluttering the kitchen, it dawned on me that we would be using the dishes, glasses, and flatware we currently own for the rest of our lives (minimalists only by new dishes when absolutely necessary).

My spouse and I have been using the same dishes since we were married over three decades ago. Most of our original knives, forks, and spoons disappeared or ended life in a garbage disposal so our flatware set is only about fifteen years old. Glassware seems to suffer the most casualties so our current glasses are probably between seven to ten years old.

I figured if we are going to be eating off these plates and drinking out of these glasses for another thirty years or so, perhaps they could use some sprucing up.

In the past, we have used vinegar to remove mineral deposits from our drip coffee maker with good results so I decided to try it on our dishes. It took some trial and error and a few hours, but the results were amazing! Now everything is shiny and smooth and looks almost like new.

I realize that over time, the hard water deposits will come back, but I think I can fit in a few hours every ten years to keep our dishes, glasses, and flatware in good condition.

You can easily accomplish the same thing with a little vinegar, a dish tub, and a sponge.

The Wonders of Vinegar

My first thought was to employ the dishwasher. I loaded it with some glasses, poured in a cup of vinegar, and hit the start button. At the end of the cycle, the dishwasher racks were looking less powdery but the glasses were only marginally improved.

Next, I placed a plastic dish tub in the kitchen sink and poured a couple of cups of vinegar into it and I put a dozen glasses on the counter top. Using a slightly scrubby sponge, I wiped the inside and outside of each glass and around the rim with vinegar. After rinsing the glasses under the kitchen tap, I put them in a dish drainer to drip dry. I finished drying them with a dishtowel and voilà the glasses were shiny and clear and looked almost brand new. Wow!

I briefly considered taking all the dishes, glasses, and our coffee mug collection out of the kitchen cupboards and tackling the project all at once. When I realized it would likely be a boring task taking several hours to complete, I had second thoughts.

My solution was to break up the project by leaving the tub in the sink and periodically returning to the kitchen and doing another batch. Each time, after towel drying the pieces in the dish drainer and putting them away, I took out another stack of plates or a group of coffee mugs and repeated the procedure.

At the end of the day, our dishes, glasses, and coffee mugs were sparkling and clean. I was so impressed with the results that the next day I repeated the process on our serving bowls and plates and our stainless steel flatware.

Refurbishing Your Dishes is a Green Thing to Do and Saves Money

Making anything, including dishes, uses resources and energy and depending on what materials and processes are involved, pollutes the air, water, and land to a greater or lesser degree.

An environmental benefit of refurbishing and using the same dishes for decades is that it reduces the need for manufacturing and transporting new goods.

Interestingly, having your dishes look almost new makes them seem like they are new. Now that you own a practically new set of dishes, you can easily ignore the little invisible consumer devil that sits on your right shoulder constantly whispering “Buy stuff.” in your ear.

We can help the environment and save some money by refurbishing our dishes, glasses, and flatware instead of replacing them.

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Move Beyond Decluttering to Minimizing Your Stuff – Part 2

Zen Garden with Sand Swirl and Balance Stones

Moving beyond decluttering your stuff to adopting a minimalist philosophy can lift your spirit, free up your time and money, and help keep Earth habitable.

Decluttering is about paring down your stuff and organizing what remains. Minimizing is that and more. It is a way of life. Becoming a minimalist entails shifting your attitude about owning things and enjoying living your life with fewer material goods.

In part one of this post, I attempted to explain how my worry about Christmas consumerism and the health of our planet disrupted my decluttering project resulting in a change of direction from just decluttering to minimizing.

We will be exploring ideas about decluttering and minimizing in part two. I hope that this will help you in evaluating your own situation and deciding if you are ready to embark upon a minimalist journey.

Decluttering

Generally, decluttering involves going through the rooms in your house or apartment and your garage if you have one, tidying up and organizing your things. Often, it also includes getting rid of unwanted stuff by donating, giving, selling, recycling, or throwing it away.

Decluttering is a cathartic process for many people. Divesting yourself of stuff that you do not use or want anymore can be a liberating experience. By putting the things you do want and need in order, you can easily find and get to them.

Minimizing

Minimizing begins with an extreme version of decluttering involving reducing your stuff to the items you really, really need, use, or love. Once you complete the initial process, which could take you several months or more, the hard part begins. Living with fewer belongings means adding less stuff to your home and life in the future. Like eating a healthy diet, minimalism is something you strive to do, forever.

Becoming a minimalist usually requires making a substantial shift in your relationship with possessions.

Moving Beyond Decluttering to Minimizing

People’s reasons for taking a minimalist approach to stuff are variable just like people. My motive is to reduce environmental harm and keep Earth habitable for my children, your children, other people’s children, and future people. You may feel owning less stuff would free up your time for family activities, charitable work, or traveling. Maybe having fewer things, from clothes to pots and pans, would make your life feel less chaotic and more peaceful. Perhaps you would appreciate having more money to invest, save, or donate to a worthy cause.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to minimalism. If you are a parent with young children living in a suburb in California, your life is different from a forty-something unmarried New York City dweller. Older people have had more years to accumulate things, but younger people who have done a lot of shopping and buying might have amassed as much or more stuff. One person may be satisfied with holding onto a few keepsakes, or books, or fill in the blank ______, while another person needs more of these things to feel content.

I believe the common theme is a mindset of desiring to own less stuff and being willing to change.

Getting Started on Your Minimalist Journey

So, you made the decision to move beyond decluttering to minimizing your stuff. Congratulations! I can hear the planet sighing in relief.

Where do you start? It does not matter just start. If you need help or inspiration, try reading a post or two or checking out the resources in the sections below.

Your journey and mine will likely be filled with both supportive and unenthusiastic family members, unexpected challenges and benefits, and unyielding pressure to buy more stuff. Keep trying and make a u-turn if you need to.

Making Minimalism U-Turns

If you are like me, you have had decades to perfect your shopping and buying habits and are probably holding a “good consumer” certificate. Transforming your relationship with stuff may not go smoothly, at least at first.

My transformation hit a bump in the road the first week.

I was packing a box in the kitchen when I noticed a pile of muddy shoes belonging to various family members in the corner by the laundry room. We have received a lot of much-needed rain recently and it makes sense not to put muddy shoes in your closet, but it was making a mess on the kitchen floor.

My first impulse was to buy a plastic tub for each person to put dirty shoes in. I even made a note on my shopping list. Fortunately, I stopped myself from making the purchases by realizing that I could solve the problem using cardboard shoeboxes, an old towel, or occasionally wiping up the floor.

Sigh, I wonder how many times this type of scenario will occur before my first instinct is to use something I already have versus buying something new.

For fun and as means of evaluating my progress this year, I am keeping of list of the things that I buy and things I think about buying but do not. In the future, I plan to write a post sharing my results and any wisdom I acquire along the way to living a minimalist life.

Please share your ideas about minimizing your stuff and making u-turns with other readers.

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