Aerial view of Corpus Christi, Texas.

In fiscal year 2018, the Council administered Regional Solid Waste Grants Program funds for two Council of Governments Managed-Projects (CMP). The first was to conduct regional local enforcement training programs and the second was to provide pharmaceutical waste collection locations in the region.

The United States is facing an epidemic of abuse when it comes to unused, unsecured, unwanted and expired prescription medications. These medications can fall into the wrong hands, resulting in accidental overdose or drug abuse, and can cause serious irrevocable damage to the environment.

Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say that the safest way to dispose of unwanted pharmaceuticals in the home is to use a medicine take-back program. A less desirable option is putting them in a container with coffee grounds or kitty litter and disposing of them in the trash. This method takes the waste to the landfill where it can still enter the environment.

Medications should never be flushed unless the instructions specifically say to. This method results in leftover medications entering waterways because wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove these pollutants. Studies have found that antibiotics, anti-seizure medicines, mood stabilizers and sex hormones are all in the Nation’s drinking water supply. Serious harmful effects have been recorded on wildlife across the country as well as in some human populations.

The Council wanted to provide an alternative method for safe disposal. There are now 17 MedSafe pharmaceutical units throughout the Coastal Bend region that residents can use for safe disposal. In the first year of operation for the units, nearly 500 pounds of pharmaceuticals was collected.