Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant sponsors four new medicine collection programs

October 23rd, 2018 by

Improper disposal of unwanted medicine is both a public safety and environmental hazard. It can lead to poisonings from children and pets accidentally ingesting them, illegal use or theft, and drinking and surface water contamination. One of the best solutions to prevent improper disposal is to take unwanted medicine to a take-back drop box or collection event.

Since 2008, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) has helped communities organize permanent local medicine collection programs in 53 Great Lakes communities, including new collection box installations in the past year at police departments in four communities in three states: Gibson City and Farmer City in Illinois; Shiocton, Wisconsin; and Bloomfield, Indiana.

Two police officers stand next to a medicine collection box with IISG branding

Chief Adam Rosendahl (left) and Lieutenant Tony Row worked with IISG’s Sarah Zack to organize a take-back program and install a medicine collection box at the Gibson City Police Department. (Photo Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant / Sarah Zack)

Chief Adam Rosendahl from Gibson City installed a take-back box this past August. “One of the reasons I wanted to join the program was so that the medications did not end up in the wrong hands,” said Rosendahl. “We have had a couple different instances where children have taken medications from their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine chests.” The Gibson City Police Department wants to make sure that unwanted medications are disposed of properly.

Sarah Zack, IISG pollution prevention specialist, worked directly with police officers in Illinois and Indiana to organize the four new medicine collection programs. “I’m very proud of the legacy of the unwanted medicine take-back program started at IISG, and am thrilled that the program continues to grow,” said Zack. “The success of this program is dependent on having dedicated community partners, and collaborating with folks like Chief Rosendahl to help communities is one of the most valuable services IISG provides.”

IISG plans to install more collection boxes in the next year, continuing to prevent unwanted medicine from threatening public safety and entering the water supply through improper disposal. Interested communities can reach out to Sarah Zack at or (217)300-4076 about obtaining a collection box or starting a medicine take-back program. For more information on proper disposal of unwanted medicine, visit

National Take Back Day

Keep unwanted meds out of the wrong hands and help protect the environment from improper medicine disposal by taking part in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, October 27, 2018. Go to to find a medicine collection location near you.

Champaign-Urbana collects 13,000 pounds of unwanted medicine

August 31st, 2017 by

Too much of a good thing wore out the old medicine take-back box at the Urbana Police Department, so it recently received an upgrade.

“People come in here all the time and fill this thing up,” said Lieutenant Robert Fitzgerald. “The old one would fill up twice a week. It would just get packed.”

Since the department installed the box in 2013 as part of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and University of Illinois Extension’s medicine take-back program, it’s only grown in popularity. This box’s new style still resembles a mailbox, but a new locking feature prevents people from forcing pharmaceuticals into an already full box. Nobody will walk off with this one either. It’s bolted to the ground.

Medicine take-back programs help prevent these chemicals from being flushed or thrown in the trash, potentially contaminating local waterways. Taking in unwanted medicines is a public safety issue too.

“If we can take it here in this box, it means they’re not in somebody’s grasp at home—toddlers take anything they can grab,” said Amy Anderson, Urbana animal control officer/community liaison, who manages the box.

The police department, along with more than 50 locations in four states—including one in Champaign and one at the university—are designated to accept prescription and over-the-counter medicines, including veterinary pharmaceuticals, but not illicit drugs, syringes, needles or thermometers. IISG provides each location with the drug collection box and works with community partners to ensure the program’s success. All collected drugs are incinerated—the environmentally preferred disposal method.

The Champaign and Urbana medicine take-back programs started in 2013 and have collected more than 13,000 pounds of medicine. The IISG take-back program as a whole, which was established in 2007, has collected more than 58 tons. In addition, Sea Grant has helped collect over 30 tons just from helping out in single-day events throughout the Great Lakes region.

Amy Anderson, Urbana animal control officer/community liaison, (left) and Lieutenant Robert Fitzgerald pose with the new medicine take-back box in the lobby of the Urbana Police Department.

“The partnership we have with the Urbana Police Department, Champaign Police Department, and University of Illinois Police Department is so valuable,” said Sarah Zack, IISG pollution prevention extension specialist. “They do a great public service by operating this take-back program, and I hope that people can take advantage of the convenient drop-off locations in the C-U area.”

Be sure to visit to find your local take-back location.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension.

West Lafayette take-back program still growing after five years

March 9th, 2015 by

Community medicine collection programs make it easy for people to rid their homes of unwanted pharmaceuticals, but they can be difficult to get off the ground. That’s where our Unwanted Meds team comes in. They have helped police departments across Illinois and Indiana establish collection programs and raise awareness of the importance of proper disposal. 

From Rx for Action: 

In today’s Community Spotlight feature, we look at West Lafayette Police Department’s Prescription/Over-the-Counter Drug Take Back (Rx/OTC) program. In 2010, Officer Janet Winslow started the wildly successful take-back program, one that has no doubt had a dramatic impact on the community and the environment.

Officer Winslow took a little time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us about the take-back program. And if the work she does here isn’t enough to show what an asset to the community she is, she has also just been named a YWCA Greater Lafayette Woman of Distinction, and will be honored at the “Salute to Women” banquet.  Congratulations Officer Winslow!

1. The West Lafayette Police Department collection program started in March 2010. How did this program come about for your area, and why did you decide to take part?

DARE America sent out a request for DARE officers to provide the community with a presentation on Rx/OTC medicines and do a take-back at the same time. I did a community presentation and actually had more people bring me Rx/OTC to be destroyed then that came to the presentation. Since that was successful I asked my Chief if I could try to do it monthly to see how the turnout would be. The “go greener” commission had also expressed and interest to the city government to attempt a take-back. 
2. What has been the community’s response? What are people saying about the medicine take-back opportunities and the program?  

I do the take-back monthly and every month I think it will be less. I literally have people standing in the police department lobby waiting for me to get my table and boxes set up. It has grown from one small box (~25 pounds) to 6-12 boxes, sometimes over 200 pounds every month. A lot of the people who use my program thank me for providing it to the community. 
3. A lot of take-back programs have permanent collection boxes at police departments, but you plan, set-up, collect, and run the entire program (monthly events) yourself. What are some benefits of running a program in this manner?  


My chief has asked me several times about getting the permanent box. My answer is always the same: I do not have time daily to check the box. I do not want liquids spilled in the box or broken bottles. Due to a lack of space I started separating the pills from the bottles. I do this as I am taking them back. I then recycle the bottles and the lids are delivered to an organization that makes park benches. I also like the interaction I have with the community during the take-backs.

U of I students get hands-on with pharmaceutical disposal

December 15th, 2014 by
University of Illinois students and faculty took a break from the end-of-semester chaos earlier this month to take advantage of a single-day medicine take-back. The student-led event was part of the Learning in Community (LINC) service course facilitated by IISG.  

“We spoke to so many different people to put on this event, from police officers to student organization leaders on campus to Jimmy John’s representatives,” said Reema Abi-Akar, a senior in urban planning. “We looked into case studies of past medicine take-back events, learned the ropes, and slowly absorbed all of the components we needed to replicate to put on a successful event.”

“Preparations for the event were challenging,” added Rosalee Celis, project manager and senior in biomedical engineering. “There were various marketing aspects that still had to be completed and communication between a 10-member team over Thanksgiving break was difficult. However, the efforts exerted during this crunch time made the results more satisfying.”
The event was a success, collecting 15 pounds of unused medicine for incineration in just six hours. 
This was just one of the outreach projects led by the LINC students this year. The class, which includes eight students and two undergraduate project managers, also gave an interactive presentation to an ESL class at Urbana High School to raise awareness of the risks of pharmaceutical pollution and the importance of proper disposal.
“Our group truly feels like we made a difference in the community and spread the word about proper medicine disposal,” Reema said.
And the course has been an eye-opening experience for the students as well. 
To be honest, I started this experience with little to no knowledge about proper medicine disposal,” Reema continued. “All the old medications in my parents’ medicine cabinet were simply collecting dust for years because we never knew how to get rid of them. Once I came into this LINC class and my group began researching the subject further, I became more and more interested in it—and I believe I’m speaking for my entire group as well.
“I can now enter the professional workforce in the pharmaceutical industry with the awareness of potential environmental damage due to pharmaceutical waste,” said Rosalee. 

Community spotlight: Macon County

October 24th, 2014 by
Permanent medicine collection programs make it easy for people to rid their homes of unwanted pharmaceuticals, but they can be difficult to get off the ground. That’s where our Unwanted Meds team comes in. They have helped communities across Illinois and Indiana purchase collection boxes and raise awareness of drop-off programs, including Illinois’ Macon County. 
From Rx for Action: 

A few months back, IISG was contacted by Laurie Rasmus of the Macon County Environmental Management Department. She was aware of the issues surrounding improper disposal of pharmaceuticals and wanted to know how we could work together to provide Decatur residents with a convenient way to safely dispose of their unwanted medicines. IISG has found that partnerships like this work really well. So we wanted to start sharing the stories of communities with medicine take-back programs with people who may be thinking about staring a program in their area. Laurie took a few minutes of her time to answer some of our questions about Macon County’s need for prescription take-back boxes and why they are so important to the community.

How did you learn about safe medicine disposal, and how did this initiative come about? 

Our department first learned about safe medicine disposal through the one-day take-back collections sponsored by the DEA. 

Our office receives many inquiries from residents who want to learn how to dispose of unused and expired medicine in a safe manner that is not harmful to the environment. We informed these residents of the drop-off box operated by the Maroa Police Department. Most were pleased to learn about the Maroa drop-off site but many mentioned that a Decatur-based location would be more convenient. So, we inquired with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant about the possibilities for a collection site in Decatur and received encouraging information. We then approached Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider about a drop-off site at his office. Sheriff Schneider was enthusiastic about establishing a collection box in the lobby of the Macon County Law Enforcement Center. 

Why do you think this is an important issue?   

Safe, secure medicine disposal reduces the risks of accidental poisonings, drug misuse and pollution. 

In the news: Appeals court ruling opens door for manufacturer-funded medicine take-back programs

October 1st, 2014 by
A federal appeals court yesterday unanimously rejected a challenge by the pharmaceutical industry to a local ordinance that would require drug manufacturers to pay for the disposal of unwanted medicine in California’s Alameda County, the first law of its kind in the nation.
Approved by county supervisors in July 2012, the Alameda County Safe Medication Disposal Ordinance requires the makers of prescription drugs sold in the county to fund the collection, transportation, and disposal of unused or expired medications from residential sources. The requirements are similar to those underpinning successful medicine collection programs in Canada, France, and Australia.
Implementation of the law was stalled in Dec. 2012  by a lawsuit filed by industry trade associations. With support from drugmakers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the groups argued that the ordinance illegally shifts local costs to out-of-county producers and interferes with interstate commerce. But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco disagreed, saying the ordinance treats local and non-local manufacturers equally and imposes no substantial burden on interstate trade.  


Pharmaceutical manufacturers could still appeal to the Supreme Court. If the decision stands, it could serve as a precedent for a similar measure in Washington. In the wake of the Alameda County ordinance, the King County Board of Health passed a law requiring manufacturers to install medicine drop-off boxes and provide pre-paid, pre-addressed mailers upon request. 
The county was sued in Nov. 2013, with drug manufacturers comparing the ordinance to requiring news publications to conduct paper recycling or food producers to collect spoiled food. That case was put on hold until the Alameda County lawsuit could be resolved. 

Take a minute to learn about pollution prevention

September 11th, 2014 by
Laura Kammin, our pollution prevention specialist, has some exciting news. Let’s let her tell you about it:

If you only had a minute, what would you say?
Just one minute to explain what pharmaceutical waste is and how people can help reduce it. That was the challenge posed by our new pollution prevention team members Erin Knowles and Adrienne Gulley. 
Challenge accepted! Here it is, the first installment of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Pollution Prevention Minute.


We know it’s a long name. But don’t worry, the content isn’t. They’re one—ok, maybe sometimes closer to two—minute videos that give easy-to-understand answers to some of the more complicated questions surrounding the use, storage, and disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products.
Why videos? We are always getting asked questions like “what happens to the medicine that gets collected?” and “what are microbeads?” We think these new videos are a fun way to share the answers.
And be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and watch for the next episode of IISG’s Pollution Prevention Minute.  

New DEA rule makes it easier than ever to safely dispose of unwanted meds

September 8th, 2014 by
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has just announced new regulations for the disposal of controlled substances that make it possible for retail pharmacies to collect pharmaceuticals, including controlled substances. The long-awaited policy change, which goes into effect Oct. 9, means there could soon be many more locations—and more convenient ones at that—for you to dispose of your unwanted medicines. 
Permanent and single-day collection programs have been a reality in many communities across the country for years. But these programs were led by city, county, and state police departments, the only groups allowed to accept controlled substances from those looking to properly dispose of the unused medicines. This limited the number of available programs and often made it difficult for the public to properly dispose of their pharmaceuticals conveniently.
Law enforcement agencies will continue to manage take-back programs under the new regulations. But they can now be joined by manufacturers, distributors, reverse distributors, and retail pharmacies.
The new law does not create new collection programs, and it doesn’t require others to either. The amendment to the Controlled Substances Act simply makes room for groups outside law enforcement to voluntarily establish mail-back programs or maintain collection boxes. Retail pharmacies also have the option of administering collection programs at long-term care facilities.
We are very happy that the regulations are finally out. But the work around here will continue much as it has for the last seven years. Our pollution prevention team will continue to educate the public on the proper use, storage, and disposal of PPCPs. And they are still working closely with communities to set up legal, sustainable take-back programs.  

Over 12,000 pounds of medicine are not in local waterways

August 20th, 2014 by

You have probably heard that pharmaceuticals have been found in rivers and streams, groundwater, and drinking water throughout the country, in part because medications are sometimes flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash. While the contamination levels are not yet proven to pose health threats to people, studies have shown that these chemicals are have been linked to impaired development, behavior, and reproduction in aquatic wildlife.

In 2013, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, which has been a leader in addressing the need for safe medicine disposal, provided assistance to 39 permanent collection programs in both states. IISG also supported single-day collection events in 14 communities by assisting with the collections, writing press releases, and providing educational materials. 

As a result, 12,040 pounds of medicine were properly disposed of through permanent collection programs and single-day events supported by IISG. The medicine was destroyed using high-heat incineration, thus reducing the potential for diversion or accidental poisonings and keeping the chemicals out of local water.

To learn more about how IISG is empowering communities and individuals to secure a healthy environment, check out our 2013 program impacts.



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