Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Disposing of Prescription Drugs and Other Common Household Items

I love to declutter, and sometimes in my haste to clean up, I throw out things that I shouldn't. Last weekend, while disposing of a pile of unused computer cords, I accidentally tossed the cord for my camera. Now I need to buy a new one so that I can transfer my photos.

I know that I should be more conscientious in what I throw out. And some items in particular need to be disposed of with care.

Prescription Drugs

Flushing medications was once believed to be the safest method of disposal but is now recommended against (with a few exceptions) in order to minimize the impact on our environment.

The FDA advises that you take advantage of community drug take-back programs, which ensure that drugs are disposed of properly.

Western New York Prescription Drug Drop-Off Next Week

A take-back program will be held next week on Saturday, October 29 throughout Western New York. Participating locations include Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Mercy Ambulatory Care Center in Orchard Park, and Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga.

Click here for details.

Home Disposal

If you can't make it to a take-back program, check for disposal information on the drug label or in the instructions that accompanied your medication.

According to the FDA, most drugs can be tossed in the trash. But before you dispose of them, take them out of their containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or cat litter. And place them in a sealable bag or other container to prevent them from leaking.

A small number of medications should be flushed down the toilet, usually powerful narcotic pain relievers and other controlled substances. These medications can be harmful in a single dose and can even cause death if taken by someone for whom they are not prescribed. The FDA recommends flushing these medications to avoid the possibility that a child or pet may accidentally consume these drugs.

Why Dispose of Drugs Properly?

Medications that are not disposed of properly can cause harm to wildlife, pets, and people. Following the guidelines listed above can prevent animals from eating medications as they scavage for food in the garbage and can help to avoid spills that may be harmful to fishes and wildlife.

Click here for more information about drug disposal.


Returning electronics to the manufacturer is free and convenient, as required by New York State law.

Computers and televisions are accepted, as are keyboards, DVD players, music players, and gaming systems. Click here for a complete list of electronics that can be recycled.

Manufacturers may collect electronics by mail, at specific locations (i.e. retail stores, not-for-profit organizations, etc.) or at community events.

Instructions on how to recycle electronic waste is available at the manufacturer's website.

Recycling programs are also in place at Best Buy, Dell, and other retailers. Click here to learn where you can donate your electronic items.

Why Recycle Your Electronics?

Recycling will not only limit the waste that is placed into landfills, but it will help to prevent toxins from circulating in the air, water and soil and conserve natural resources through reuse. Plus, you'll have a head start on New York State law.  In 2015, residents will be banned from disposing of electronic equipment in landfills.

Paper, Plastics, and Other Recyclables

Earlier this year, the Buffalo News reported that city residents recycle only 6.5 percent of all household waste, about one-fifth of the national average. But when you consider that up to 75% of what we throw away could be recycled, it's clear that we're all capable of doing more.

Curbside pick-up is the most convenient recycling method for most households. To learn how you can get a blue recycling bin for your household, visit the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning.

Items accepted in the bin include:
  • Newspapers, magazines and catalogs
  • Junk mail
  • Cardboard
  • Brown paper bags
  • Glass food and beverage containers and jars
  • Metal food and beverage cans
  • Plastic food, soap and beverage containers with screw-on lids
The city participates in single-stream recycling, which means that your items don't need to be sorted before they're placed into the bin.

Why Recycle?

Recycling helps to prevent pollution, and conserves natural resources. It also reduces the burden on our landfills. The Buffalo News reported that Buffalo could save more than $500,000 a year in landfill fees and other expenses if it could substantially increase household recycling.

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