According to new research carried out by Initial, Ireland’s leading experts in healthcare waste management, only 13.6% of survey participants bring their unused, out of date medications back to their pharmacy, where they can be disposed of safely, while 78.6% admitted to dumping their old medication in the bin. Initial is today warning the public of the dangers and risks associated with disposing of expired medication in ordinary household waste or disposing of them in the sink or flushing them down the toilet. Doing so greatly increases the risk of water contamination and also endangers plant and animal life.
Nick Murphy, Medical Waste Consultant with Initial Medical said: “The incorrect disposal of medicines in this way has a catastrophic effect on the quality of water. We estimate that there are a million homes in Ireland, so if 80% them are not bringing back medicines, and even if this is a minimum of ten tablets per year, that is a lot of tablets, a lot of cough bottles, and a lot of medical products entering the environment, whether that is through landfill or through flushing. It is poisonous to our marine life and if we assume that this practice has been going on for years we can, therefore, assume that our waterways are highly polluted as even though it seems like a small amount in one house, cumulatively it is going to have a larger impact. We would like to see pharmacists encouraging patients to not only finish out their prescriptions but to also educate them on returning unused medication as it is a health and safety issue in the home as well because small children might have access to them with potentially disastrous effects. We would like to see more educational campaigns by the authorities being established to ensure this message is heard by households all over the country. We did not realise how low public awareness was before we did this survey and frankly the results are startling. One thing we were pleased to discover was that Irish pharmacies are particularly up-to-date in terms of medicines disposal and their staff are very well trained and in helping the public in this regard. Initial strongly urges the authorities to take action to raise awareness of this issue and educate the public that bringing their expired medicines to the pharmacy is an option”
This survey was carried out by Initial Medical. Some of the notable results include:
- 78.6% of those surveyed dispose of their old medication by throwing them in the bin.
- 13.6% of those surveyed dispose of their old medication by bringing them back to the pharmacy.
- 40% of those surveyed sometimes consume old medications if they went out of date in the last year, while 57.7% never consume old medications.
- 51.8% of those surveyed would advise a friend or family member to throw out expired medication, while 48.2% of those surveyed would not.
- 61.4% of those surveyed were unaware that bringing expired medication to the pharmacy to dispose of it was an option, while the remaining 38.6% were aware of this.
- 68.2% of those surveyed were unaware of the dangers to the environment associated with inappropriately disposing of medication, while only 31.8% of people surveyed were aware of the risks.
The survey found that almost seven out of ten people are unaware of the risks associated with the irresponsible disposal of expired medications. Commenting on this, Dr. Colm Moore, Area Technical Manager for Initial said: “It is always best practice to ensure that you bring any unused and expired medication back to your pharmacy so that it can be disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner. Many people are unaware of the risk of environmental contamination that comes with disposing of old medicines through normal household waste disposal or by flushing them down the toilet.”
Professional Medical Waste Management
We offer an onsite compliance audit to survey your business’ clinical waste process and infection control protocol. This will assess each step of your waste management process identifying areas that need attention, including as required:
- Clinical waste management, segregation, storage and disposal
- Offensive waste management, segregation, storage and disposal
- Correct use of sharps and pharmaceuticals on site
- Safer sharps requirements
- Sharps segregation, storage and disposal
- Infection control
- Use of PPE
- Dental waste management
- Amalgam disposal onsite
To receive full guidance on your waste disposal requirements, contact the Initial Medical Expert today.