Medicine waste disposal and recycling

Medicine waste is a major problem in the UK. That’s why our team have come together to create this post on how to dispose of and recycle medicine.

Medicine waste disposal and recycling

Who invented medicines?

Although Hippocrates is considered to be the father of modern medicine due to the 70+ formulas that were found in one of his books from around 2400 years ago, probably the first medication that was created that is still used today is aspirin. This was created by the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians.

What are medicines made from and how are they made?

Medicines are made from all sorts of compounds that can either be created from a mixture of chemicals in laboratories or taken from nature (items such as leaves, bark, etc). However, some types of medicine (such as penicillin) can be made from the by-products of organisms that can include fungi.

Medicine disposal

There are several ways in which you can dispose of medicinal waste. For example:

– You can take the unused medicines back to the chemists that you bought them from. They’ll be able to dispose of them properly.

– You could flush them down the toilet so that nobody can use them. However, this should only be done with medicines that can be found on flush lists.

– You could follow the instructions on the back of the medicine’s packaging on how to dispose of them correctly.

What comes next?

If you have disposed of medicine yourself – either via flushing or through household waste – then this medicine has become unusable.

However, if you’ve taken the unwanted medicine back to the pharmacy that you got it from, then it may be recycled. Although it’s likely the medicine itself won’t be reused – whether it’s been opened or not – its packaging may then be recycled.

Problems with medicine waste

One of the most common problems with medicinal waste is the cost that it places on organisations such as the NHS. Millions are wasted each year on unusable prescription costs, which could be better spent in areas of the NHS that are struggling.

However, healthcare also causes massive problems for the environment. The packaging that is used to store them is made out of plastic, and this material alone is one of the most dangerous materials for the environment because the packaging may take over a lifetime to decompose.

What are the alternatives to medical waste?

An alternative to wasting medical packaging is to recycle it. This is because some of the plastic involved in the packaging can be recycled – either through chemical, molecular, or mechanical means. The cardboard that is used to box up different types of medicine can be widely recycled, as can the paper that the instructions for each drug are written on.

Facts about medicine

– Each year an estimated £300 million of NHS prescribed medicines are wasted.

– Figures show that in 2013, over 1 billion prescription items were dispensed in the English community.

– There was an increase in repeated prescription medication of approximately 11% between 2010 and 2014.

Where can you take medicinal items to recycle/dispose of them for free?

To recycle or dispose of medicinal items for free you can either take them to your local pharmacy (however this excludes any travel costs that you may face to get there). Here they would be able to dispose of not just the drug most safely, but also the packaging too. However, you could also recycle medicines at home for free by either flushing or binning the drug itself, and placing the packaging in the corresponding recycling bins.

For more information on medical waste disposal, feel free to contact a member of our team today.

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