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Sustainable Strategies for an Eco-Friendly Medication Routine

The importance of sustainability extends beyond just our diet and lifestyle choices—it encompasses every aspect of our daily routines, including healthcare. As we become increasingly aware of the impact of pharmaceuticals on the environment, there is a growing need to adopt eco-conscious practices when it comes to managing our health. According to the National Library of Medicine, in an article titled, Plastics in Healthcare: time for re-evaluation, “The global medical plastics market is currently worth US$22.26 billion, or 2% of total plastics production by value, and is growing by 6.1% per year.” (6)  

From mindful consumption and disposal to exploring sustainable alternatives, prioritizing eco-friendly practices in medication usage serves as a vital step toward fostering a healthier planet for generations to come.

Downsize Your Medicine Cabinet

Downsizing your medicine cabinet can be a mindful approach to simplify your medicine routine and reduce clutter. You can achieve this by carefully evaluating your medication needs and properly disposing of expired or unused medications. Another way to reduce waste is by prioritizing multipurpose products, resisting the temptation to buy unnecessary products, and minimizing duplicates.

A downsized medicine cabinet not only promotes a clutter-free environment but also encourages cautious consumption and fosters a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. According to the National Institute of Health, in an article titled, Air Pollution and Your Health, “Air pollution exposure is associated with oxidative stress and inflammation in human cells, which may lay a foundation for chronic diseases and cancer.” (3) 

Dispose of Medications Properly

It is important to dispose of medications properly to safeguard the environment and other people. Throwing unused or expired medications in the trash or flushing them down the toilet is not recommended as it can pollute water sources and cause harm to wildlife. Rather, it is advisable to adhere to specific guidelines provided by pharmacies, law enforcement, or waste management. Numerous communities offer drug take-back programs4 that provide safe disposal of medications. (5)

If medication disposal at your pharmacy or drug take-back programs are not readily available in your area, some medications can be mixed with undesirable substances such as coffee grounds and cat litter and placed in sealed containers before being thrown away. Below are steps to take recommended by the FDA. (2) 

Disposing of medications in household trash:

1.       Remove drugs from their original packaging and mix them with something undesirable such as coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. This makes this medication less appealing to children and pets. It also disguises the substance for someone who may go through the trash looking for drugs.

2.       Put the mixture into something that you can seal such as a container or re-sealable zipper storage bag.

3.       Put the container in the garbage.

4.       Scratch off all personal information on the empty medicine packaging and throw this packaging away as well. Remember to recycle any eligible packaging.

The FDA1 has also provided a list of medications that can be safely flushed, but this method should be used as a last resort. By disposing of medications responsibly, we can prevent accidental ingestion, reduce the risk of substance misuse, and prevent pollutants from interfering with the ecosystem.

Minimize Waste When Buying Medications

Minimizing the amount of packaging used for medications is an environmentally responsible practice that can significantly reduce waste. One way to achieve this is by filling your prescription for only the required amount of medication, instead of getting a larger quantity that may go unused and ultimately end up in landfills. Another approach is to choose medications that come with minimal packaging, such as those that come in bulk or blister packs. For long-term medications, opting for larger quantities can also help reduce packaging waste.

In addition, refillable prescriptions and medication packaging services are becoming increasingly popular options for those looking to reduce their environmental footprint. These services allow patients to receive their medications in a single, refillable container, rather than multiple containers that may end up being discarded. By making these small changes, individuals can do their part to help protect the environment and reduce waste.

Consider Natural Alternatives

When it comes to medication, considering natural alternatives can be a great way to take an eco-friendly approach. Natural remedies generally have a lower environmental impact than other treatments because they require fewer resources and chemicals during the production process. Unlike synthetic medicines, many natural medicines are derived from renewable sources such as plants, which reduces the strain on finite resources. Additionally, natural remedies are often produced using traditional methods that have been used for centuries, making them a more sustainable choice for our health and the environment.

Opting for natural alternatives can also lead to fewer medications being disposed of improperly and entering our water system. Many synthetic medicines contain chemicals that can be harmful to aquatic life if they end up in rivers and oceans. By choosing natural remedies, we can help to decrease the potential harm to aquatic ecosystems and protect the health of our planet.

By adopting sustainable medication practices, we can take care of our healthcare needs in an eco-friendly and responsible way. These practices include downsizing, properly disposing of expired or unwanted medications, choosing eco-friendly packaging, and considering natural alternatives. When we make these choices, we contribute to a healthier planet and ensure that our healthcare needs are met without harming the environment.





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