Earth Day at 50: How We Can All Help Protect the Environment

earth day

This year is the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. In 1970, about 10% of the total population of the United States participated in Earth Day activities. This year, organizers cited the World Health Organization’s (WHO) advice and recommendations and have discouraged large-in person events. April 22, 2020 will be the first Digital Earth Day and will include “virtual protests, social media campaigns, online teach-ins and more.

The original Earth Day focused attention on industry-generated pollution. The air was dirty, and rivers caught fire. The federal government addressed these issues with landmark environmental legislation, including the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act in 1972.

However, it’s important to remember that we all contribute to environmental degradation through the generation of waste. What may seem like small individual actions can have a big effect on the environment and the community.

PPE Litter

As concerns about the spread of COVID-19 infection grow, people are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when going out in public, such as while grocery shopping. As more people use PPE, more and more gloves and masks are being found in parking lots. We ask the public to be respectful of our Earth and properly dispose of used PPE in trash cans and not litter.

Pharmaceutical Waste Can Affect the Environment and Your Community

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 48.4% of Americans used at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days, and 24% took at least three prescription drugs. Unfortunately, a large percentage of people don’t take their prescription drugs as prescribed. They may stop taking the medication once they feel better, because they have side effects, or for other reasons. Medications kept in the home (both over-the-counter and prescription drugs) can poison pets and children.

Proper disposal of medications is just as important as following prescribed use and secure storage instructions. Medications can poison the environment in a manner of ways.

  • Flushing: When you pour pharmaceuticals down the sink or flush them down the toilet, you could be sending potentially dangerous drugs full-strength into your community’s water supply. Drinking water is treated, but it often retains trace amounts of drug residue.
  • Trash: When unwanted medications are disposed of in regular household trash, they end up in landfills and may contaminate human water supplies and harm wildlife.

Unused opioid medications stored in unsecured locations in households contribute to the opioid addiction epidemic. Many nonmedical opioid users began abusing when friends or family shared their extra opioid medications. People who are addicted to opioids may also steal opioids from friends and family members. Always keep opioid medications in secure locations and promptly dispose of any unused pills.

Environmentally Safe Prescription Drug Disposal

Safe disposal of prescription drugs helps protect your family, your community, and the environment.

  • Drug Takeback Days: Sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), these special events happen each April and October. Law enforcement agencies and other groups sponsor events where people can go to safely dispose of their unwanted/unused medications. NOTE: This year’s April takeback event has been postponed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus health crisis.
  • MedSafe drug collection receptacles: These medication collection kiosks are available at DEA-authorized locations, including consumer pharmacies, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies.
  • TakeAway Medication Recovery System envelopes: Safely dispose of unused medications without leaving home. Our DEA-compliant Takeaway envelopes are designed to allow safe disposal of small quantities of ultimate user drugs. Place the unused drugs in our prepaid, pre-addressed envelope and mail to our DEA-approved facility for safe, on-site destruction.

Our pharmaceutical collection and takeback options help divert pharmaceutical waste from landfills. The totals are impressive – and growing:

  • 3,856,800 TakeAway Medication Envelopes distributed to ultimate users for mailback disposal
  • 501,100 pounds of medication collected from ultimate users via TakeAway Medication Envelopes
  • 4,730 MedSafe collection kiosks placed in retail pharmacies and other public places
  • 50,600 MedSafe inner liners returned for proper destruction
  • 2.3 million pounds of unused medication deposited in MedSafe collection kiosks

At Sharps Compliance, we strive to treat every day as Earth Day. Our safe, DEA-compliant collection, transport, and treatment services help waste generators safely dispose of materials that might otherwise contaminate drinking water or harm humans and wildlife.

Wanda Lingner

Author: Wanda Lingner

Wanda Lingner holds a BA in Nursing from Texas Woman’s University and a BBA in Management from Texas A&M University. She has over 20 years of clinical practice in both hospitals and private practice in a variety of medical specialties. As Clinical Specialist, she assists Sharps’ customers in evaluating current federal and state-specific medical and pharmaceutical waste regulations, developing medical waste management plans, and implementing compliant regulated medical and pharmaceutical waste management processes.