Today I tackled a project that I’d been avoiding for many months–the disposal of old and expired pharmaceuticals. After cleaning out my cabinets at the onset of this project, I had stockpiled the bottles and blister packs full of unused and expired pills that had accumulated in my home over the past several years. Everything from unfinished antibiotics and steroids that were prescribed for the flu and sinus infections, to over-the-counter allergy medications used during some landscaping forays, to painkillers that were prescribed for one of my several broken digit incidents–had all been tucked away in my sock drawer until I could figure out what to do with them.
For medical and environmental reasons it is usually recommended to finish the course of a prescription, but I’ve never been good at taking a pill for a symptom that no longer exists. I’ve had serious anxiety about throwing the drugs away because I know that no matter what approach I take, this hazardous waste will end up in the ground and water. Though it was once common practice, many people know by now that it is not a good idea to flush medication down the toilet. And I’ve read that great caution needs to be exercised when throwing drugs out for trash collection as animals or even people could potentially ingest them after you put them out.
I sat down this morning and separated all the pills from their bottles and packs and put them into a used paper bag. By the time I was done, I had emptied hundreds of pills. The sight of them all mixed up was pretty shocking, as was that of the pile of bottles and packs. I noticed my cat was immediately drawn to the smells in the bag (more on how she fits into this project soon). I filled the bag with ashes from the wood stove and cayenne pepper to make the stash less desirable to scavengers, as recommended by several online sources. I placed the bag inside another thicker paper bag and deposited it in a lidded dumpster at my work that will be emptied in the next couple of days. It felt strange and terrible to throw a bag into the garbage after months of not doing so. I took bottles to Whole Foods where I separated the plastics according to their number and placed them in the appropriate bins.