Safe disposal of unwanted medicines


Date: 17 January 2017

Many people dispose of old medicines in a potentially harmful way.

Getting rid of unwanted medicines has for too long been achieved by simply throwing them in the garbage or flushing them down the sink or toilet. It has been estimated that more than 500 tonnes of medicines find their way into waterways and landfill every year.

Both these methods have dangers and studies have shown even medicines disposed of in landfill have leached back into the food chain via water or fertilisers made from land fill.  Flushing them into waste water systems also has been shown to cause environmental issues, with fish changing sex and others changing behaviour patterns after exposure to medicines in waste water.

The only safe way to dispose of these unwanted medicines is through the Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) scheme which is run by a government funded organisation called The National Return & Disposal of Unwanted Medicines Limited.

This group collects unwanted medicines and disposes of them via special high-temperature sealed incinerators. All community pharmacies can participate, with the majority already actively being involved in it. The program is free of charge to the pharmacy and to the consumer, and participating community pharmacies have special bins under the scheme where consumers can dispose their unwanted medicines.

As a result, the RUM Project provides the safest, easiest and most environmentally appropriate way to dispose of unwanted and out-of-date medicines. It makes it possible to return all household medicines to any pharmacy for free and to ensure safe collection and disposal.

For more details, visit the RUM website.

Contact: Peter Waterman

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Page last updated 30 August 2018