ALACHUA COUNTY - Since 2004, the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department has provided a free service to Alachua County residents to drop off old or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications for proper disposal. Five locations in the County accept old medications for disposal through the County's service: the Alachua County Hazardous Waste Collection Center located off of Waldo Road in the Leveda Brown Environmental Park and Transfer Station, 5115 NE 63rd Ave., Gainesville, the three Wise Pharmacies in Gainesville and the University of Florida Infirmary.
Residents may drop off medications during normal operating hours in the container provided at each location. Items accepted include prescription drugs, chemotherapy agents and over-the-counter medications that are expired, damaged, are no longer needed, or are otherwise unusable for their intended purpose. Only products in pill, capsule or liquid forms are accepted, and no narcotics or controlled substances are allowed to be accepted per DEA regulations.
Recent newspaper articles have highlighted the improper disposal of pharmaceutical products as an emerging area of environmental concern locally and worldwide. There are potential health risks to aquatic life and to humans by long term exposure to minute quantities of pharmaceuticals that could make their way into surface and ground water systems after being discharged by sewage treatment plants or through improper solid waste disposal.
"It is advised never to flush medications down sinks or drains," said Kurt Seaburg, Hazardous Waste Coordinator with the County. "Wastewater treatment plants currently do not have the capability to treat or eliminate residuals of pharmaceuticals in waste water." The sludge that is a byproduct of wastewater treatment plants and is applied to land as a soil amendment may contain residuals from improper pharmaceutical waste disposal.
Since January 2004, the County's disposal service has resulted in the collection, proper management and disposal of over 800 pounds of medications.
For more information, please contact the Alachua County Hazardous Waste Center at 352-334-0440.