Environmental Protection

Company Extends Prescription Drug Disposal Program Through 2011

Covanta Energy Corporation has extended its “Prescription for Safety” program, which safely disposes of medications collected at community-sponsored drug take-back programs, free of charge, through the end of 2011.

The company developed the program based on evidence of pollution in waterways and drinking water, as well as an increase in pharmaceutical drug abuse. Since launching the program earlier this year, Covanta Energy-from-Waste (EfW) facilities have destroyed more than 30,000 pounds of unwanted medications from collections held by municipalities, community groups, and law enforcement agencies across the United States.

Take-back events provide a safe, confidential, and environmentally sound disposal option for unwanted medications, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, veterinary medications, and nutritional supplements. Covanta Energy's EfW facilities provide safe, environmentally sound destruction that protects water resources and keeps unauthorized users safe from abuse.

When flushed down the drain or disposed of in landfills, medications find their way into waterways and contaminate surface waters, having an adverse effect on our drinking water and the environment. A recent study conducted by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection shows that unwanted prescription drugs being tossed into landfills pose a threat to surface and groundwater supplies around the state. Test results of leachate at three Maine landfills showed concentrations of a wide range of pharmaceuticals. These drugs cannot be removed from water supplies at typical wastewater treatment plants, and the contaminated water can negatively affect aquatic organisms, fish, and other wildlife.

"Covanta was motivated to roll out the Rx4Safety program after we became aware of the impact pharmaceutical drugs were having on our water supplies and the increasing problem of abuse. We are thrilled to work with organizations that are leading the way on this issue such as The Product Stewardship Institute  and the Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program and are happy to provide final, safe, and secure disposal of the collected drugs," said John G. Waffenschmidt, Covanta Energy’s vice president for Environmental Science and Community Affairs. "Our energy-from-waste facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art combustion controls and air pollution control equipment to ensure the destruction of these drugs in an environmentally sound manner, one that protects the water we depend upon day in and day out and ensures that unwanted drugs are not available for abuse."

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) has taken a national leadership position in the need for increased product stewardship. In the case of pharmaceuticals, PSI has been leading the dialogue on best practices, including proper destruction. They have been instrumental in education efforts to raise awareness about the issue and collaborated with Covanta on the development of the free disposal program. Thanks to PSI's efforts and those of countless other groups, a new federal law, signed Oct. 12 by President Barack Obama, will reduce costs and create more opportunities for collecting unused medicines from homes and long-term care facilities. The Safe and Secure Drug Disposal Act will give communities more options for providing secure take-back programs to prevent drug abuse, reduce the chances of accidental poisonings, and keep pharmaceutical drugs out of the environment.

"It's extremely important that medications are disposed of properly to curtail abuse and the contamination of our environment," said Scott Cassel, executive director of the Product Stewardship Institute. "Covanta's offer to dispose of collected pharmaceuticals free of charge reduces costs for municipalities holding take-back programs. These collaborations are important steps in lowering the environmental and health risks associated with unwanted pharmaceuticals. Thermal destruction at energy-from-waste facilities, hazardous waste incinerators, or medical waste incinerators, provides for the ultimate destruction of these drugs."

In addition to properly managing the destruction of these unwanted drugs and protecting our clean water supply, collected drugs are used to create electricity. Covanta's energy-from-waste facilities reduce greenhouse gases and produce clean, renewable energy from municipal solid waste.

Municipalities interested in participating in Covanta's program must obtain appropriate regulatory approvals in order to ensure that such wastes are not classified as hazardous waste from a federal, state, or local perspective. Each program would be subject to a due diligence review by Covanta Energy.


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