King County, Wash. Passes Rx Drug Take-Back Law

Puts lid on flushed and trashed prescription meds that poison the environment

About 30 percent of medicines sold today go unused and flushing them down the toilet has been a common means of disposal. But when flushed, controlled substances like OxyContin and other such medications flow directly to wastewater treatment plants, which are unable to remove or degrade the complex pharmaceutical compounds.

Pharmaceuticals thrown in the trash also find their way into the environment. The Cedar Hills landfill in Maple Valley, Wash., generates 200 million gallons a year of landfill leachate—the chemical ooze that seeps out of garbage. The leachate is pumped into a sewage treatment facility that was not designed to remove such complex chemicals, whose long-lasting and hazardous properties contributed to the contamination of Puget Sound.

Recently, the Board of Health in King County, Wash. voted to pass a medicine take-back law that mandates pharmaceutical companies  pay for the safe disposal of leftover and expired medicines—both prescription and over-the-counter.

The type of medicine take-back model under King County's new law offers more drop-off sites and other options for safe disposal of leftover medicines. This translates to fewer medicines finding their way into the environment.

For more information about establishing a drug take-back program in your community, please click