City offers option for safe drug disposalPrescription drug take-back events run nationwide Saturday, but not in Superior.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Prescription drug take-back events run nationwide Saturday, but not in Superior.
Area residents can drop off unused or expired medications five days a week in the Government Center, 1316 N. 14th St., Suite 150. In past years, one-day take-back events in the city would net about 50 pounds of pharmaceuticals. Since the drop-off box was activated at the joint Law Enforcement Center last December, those numbers have jumped.
“In the last 10 months we’ve taken in 370 pounds of combined pills and liquids,” said Superior Police Chief Charles LaGesse. “That’s quite a bit of success.”
Properly disposing of expired medication can protect the environment, thwart criminals and save lives. Unwanted pharmaceuticals in the home can cause accidental overdoses, tempt thieves seeking drugs or lead to drug abuse. Drugs that are improperly disposed of can leech into streams, lakes and drinking water.
“You can’t dispose of them by throwing them in the garbage or flushing them down the toilet,” LaGesse said. A U.S. Geological survey tested 139 streams in the country for the presence of 95 chemicals in 1999-2000, and found 80 percent of the streams contained at least one of the chemicals. More than a third contained 10 or more chemicals.
"What we do in our house makes a difference to outside water quality," said Wendy Grethen,research assistant with the city of Superior environmental services division of public works. "Our streams and the life in the streams depend on us to properly dispose of things. Incineration is the best way to disposal of meds. Seeking to use less medications, such as not buying a bulk quantity of a medicine and then it goes expired and needs to be disposed of, also help to protect the environment."
A 2013 study by the Wisconsin DNR showed about one-third, or 4.4 million pounds, of the prescriptions and over-the-counter medications sold in the state go unused. Of those, only 2 percent were collected for safe disposal. While take-back events have been popular, they have also been costly, according to the study.
Superior’s drop box initiative, however, has been fairly cheap. The only cost has been for the green metal drop box, similar to a book return at the Superior Public Library. Local residents can drop off drugs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. It’s free and confidential. People are asked to scratch out any identifying information on the labels before dropping off the drugs. Employees of the Superior Police Department empty the vault and properly package the drugs for later disposal during on-duty time, LaGesse said.
The drop box cannot be used for the disposal of needles, syringes or lancets. Those sharps must be brought to the Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Superior pharmacy at 3500 Tower Ave.
In addition, the drop box is for the public, not businesses. For more information on the drop box program call the Superior Police Department at 715-395-7234 or go to www.ci.superior.wi.us. Go to the Environmental Services Division under Public Works.