Website of the week: The ins and outs of medicine disposal

February 18th, 2015 by

A closer look at web tools and sites that boost research and empower Great Lakes communities to secure a healthy environment and economy. 

With flu season waning and allergy season on its way, it’s important to keep in mind how to properly dispose of unused and unwanted medicine. IISG’s Unwanted Meds website explains the dangers of flushing or throwing away pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and provides information, tools, and resources to help individuals, communities, and educators protect aquatic ecosystems.

The award-winning site contains information on collection programs and events for the Great Lakes region and beyond, as well as a list of commonly accepted and unaccepted items. Instructions for alternative disposal methods are also included for individuals without access to collection programs. 
And visitors looking to prevent PPCP waste will find tips and resources for reducing the amount of unwanted medicine in their homes as well as avoiding personal care products with potentially harmful chemicals.

Local decision makers can take advantage of a free toolkit with instructions for how to safely and legally conduct their own collection program or event. And educators can get help incorporating pollution prevention into their teaching with resources like The Medicine Chest and The Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal (P2D2) Program.

In addition to tips and tools, Unwanted Meds is also host to the latest information on the science behind PPCPs. Its Rx for Action blog discusses leading research on everything from where pharmaceuticals have been detected to how these chemicals impact wildlife to new technologies for removal during wastewater treatment. Readers can also go behind the scenes with the scientists working to make sense of this complicated topic with the UpClose interview series. 

For the last information on PPCPs and other emerging contaminants, be sure to follow our pollution prevention team on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, or Google+

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. 

Unwanted Meds program gets UpClose with Great Lakes plastic researcher

May 21st, 2014 by
It has been nearly one year since IISG set sail on Lake Michigan to sample for plastic pollution. Since then, Sam Mason, a chemist from State University of New York Fredonia, and her research team have been hard at work analyzing those water samples. The initial results are revealed in the latest edition of IISG’s interview series UpClose.  
In this issue, Mason talks about her ongoing work to quantify plastic pollution in the Great Lakes for the first time. In addition to the Lake Michigan results, Mason discusses plastic levels in the other four lakes, explains how plastics could impact aquatic wildlife, and suggests additional research needed to understand this emerging contaminant. 
This is the sixth edition of UpClose, which takes readers behind the scenes of the latest research on pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Each interview targets a different component of PPCP research—everything from what happens to pharmaceuticals when water is treated to what bacterial resistance could mean for other aquatic wildlife living in urban rivers. Readers also get an insider’s view of the complex, and sometimes tricky, process of conducting field studies, and the potential implications of research on industries and regulations.
Read previous issues of UpClose at For print copies, contact Pollution Prevention Program Specialist Laura Kammin.

New grant helps secure disposal boxes for Indiana communities

May 16th, 2014 by
The Indiana Household Hazardous Waste Task Force (IHHWTF) has awarded our Unwanted Meds program with funding to help support new pharmaceutical collection programs in the state. This is the second time in as many years that IISG has been recognized for its efforts to reduce pharmaceutical pollution in Indiana.
“IISG has been instrumental in providing financial assistance for take-back programs in Indiana,” said Scott Morgan, IHHWTF president. “Without this support, some of the programs may not have been established.”  
The $1,000 gift will go to purchasing secure collection boxes for communities interested in creating permanent prescription disposal drop-off locations. These types of easy disposal locations help to prevent unused medicine from contaminating aquatic environments, protect children and pets from accidental poisonings, and reduce prescription or over-the-counter drug abuse.
IHHWTF has provided financial support to programs working to reduce household waste for several years. The task force works with private and public groups across Indiana to educate the public on the proper handling and disposal of a range of environmentally-harmful chemicals—from medicines to batteries to motor oil.
Communities interested in starting their own medicine take-back program can contact Laura Kammin with questions and for additional support.

IISG plants outreach seeds at Indiana veterinary conference

February 7th, 2014 by


Last week’s trip to Indianapolis for the annual Indiana Veterinary Medical Association conference was not a typical event for IISG. The three-day conference gave Laura Kammin a unique opportunity to talk with students before they begin their careers as veterinarians or veterinary technicians about the importance of properly disposing of unwanted medication. 
“It’s becoming a rarity for me to chat with a veterinarian who doesn’t know about the environmental impacts of improper medicine disposal,” said Laura. “The next step for IISG is to make sure that students are aware of the need for proper storage and disposal.”
Many of the students were unfamiliar with the topic or the disposal options available in their communities. Laura introduced them to simple steps for managing pharmaceuticals in clinics and talked about how they can help spread the word about proper disposal to their future clients.
The event is one of several Laura has attended in the last few years to share resources and speak directly with veterinarians about pharmaceutical stewardship. It is all part of a partnership between IISG and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Since they joined forces in 2011, IISG and AVMA have developed brochures, public service announcements, and other materials for veterinaries to share with their clients. 
Many of these materials have been tailored to small animal veterinarians—those who work with dogs, cats, and other household pets. Now, though, IISG and AVMA are turning their sights towards livestock and the vets who care for them. Antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals used to treat livestock have been found in waterways across the country. In fact, animal agriculture is often the primary contributor of pharmaceutical pollution in rural areas, and some of these chemicals have been linked to impaired development and reproduction in aquatic wildlife. 
The transition to livestock pharmaceuticals took a big step forward during the conference thanks to an opportune meeting with Dan Walsh, a distance learning instructor at the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine. Laura and Dan traded resources that will help both programs strengthen their efforts to educate future vets and vet techs about the importance of proper medicine storage, use, and disposal. 

In the news: Pharmaceuticals showing up in Lake Michigan in high concentrations

September 6th, 2013 by

A recent study of Lake Michigan is indicating a high level of prescription drugs in the water, helping to emphasize the importance of proper disposal and the difficulty that water treatment facilities have removing these compounds.


“The study was performed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and examined water samples taken near a Milwaukee water treatment plant and from the city’s harbor, Environmental Health News reported.

Researchers found high levels of the anti-diabetes drug metformin, the anti-bacterial drug triclosan and the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole as well as high levels of caffeine in both water and sediment samples taken from the lake. In total, 38 different compounds were found in the samples in some concentration, including acetaminophen, testosterone, codeine and several antibiotics.”

Follow the link above for the complete article (including a link to the study and additional reading), and find out more about the importance of proper medicine disposal at our site.

2013 APEX Awards recognize two Sea Grant projects for publication excellence

August 28th, 2013 by
The APEX awards are given each year by Communication Concepts to recognize outstanding publication work in a variety of fields, and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant was selected this year for two separate awards.

IISG’s Laura Kammin was recognized for the creation of our proper medicine disposal website Working with Jane Scherer at the University of Illinois’ Extension program, Laura created the website and blog, providing valuable information about the dangers that improper medicine disposal can pose to the environment, steps that people can take to prevent medicines from getting into the wrong hands or contaminating the environment, and information about local take-back events and collection programs. 

Additionally, the IISG communications team of Irene Miles, Anjanette Riley, and Susan White were recognized for the publication of our 30 milestones, celebrating and highlighting a range of accomplishments in the first 30 years of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant program. You can browse the milestones with photographs in our Facebook album

IISG shares proper disposal message at 2013 AVMA Convention

July 30th, 2013 by

Last week the Windy City hosted thousands of veterinarians attending the 2013 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Convention. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant was also in attendance to share information about the importance of properly disposing of unused medicines, both in the clinic and at home.

IISG and the AVMA co-developed a set of five simple medication management steps for veterinarians to share with their clients: 1) use as directed, 2) store out of reach of kids and pets, 3) don’t share, 4) don’t flush down the drain or toilet, and 5) take expired or unwanted meds to a take-back program. Many of the 310 vets and vet techs that IISG spoke with at the convention were familiar with these messages, and several of them mentioned that they have the brochures available in their waiting rooms.
For the vets less familiar with the topic, Laura Kammin and Susan Boehme held a two-hour continuing education workshop to bring them up to speed. And Corrie Layfield staffed the IISG booth over the course of the 3-day event to share resources and speak directly with attendees about what medicine disposal information, if any, they already share with clients.
IISG staffers talked with veterinarians from 30 states as well as Peru, Korea, Japan, Canada, and Italy about how they can provide proper medicine storage, use, and disposal information to their clients. Laura also networked with staff from several Colleges of Veterinary Medicine to offer information and materials for future veterinarians.
For additional information about the importance of safe and proper medicine disposal, visit, and follow Unwanted Meds on Twitter.

We’re proud of our successes in protecting Lake Michigan

July 29th, 2013 by
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s work each year touches on a variety of critical water concerns, but the common goal is protecting and preserving Lake Michigan. Each year we look back at some of our successes from the previous year as a way to guide continuing efforts. Below are just a few of the highlights from last year. 
IISG helps keep over 12,000 pounds of medicine out of local water

Research shows that pharmaceuticals impact water quality—the water we drink, bathe in, and use for recreation. Using the toilet or trash to dispose of medicine can put people, animals, and the environment at risk. To address this issue, in 2012 Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant partnered with law enforcement agencies and community groups to start 17 permanent medicine collection programs. IISG also assisted with single day collection events in six communities and helped promote the fall DEA collection program in 11 communities. IISG helped organize and promote these programs, wrote press releases, provided brochures, and purchased locked medicine collection boxes. As a result of these efforts, over 12,000 pounds of pills were properly disposed of through 17 permanent collection programs and six single-day events. The medicine was destroyed using high-heat incineration, reducing the potential for diversion or accidental poisonings and keeping the chemicals from polluting local water. 

30 Illinois communities implement green infrastructure projects

In light of climate change predictions that indicate bigger storms and more flooding, managing urban stormwater will become increasingly critical in northeastern Illinois and throughout the state. But planning and implementing effective, forward-looking infrastructure can help protect communities and allow them to adapt to changing weather conditions. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant was funded by Illinois EPA to study the standards and costs of green infrastructure as a possible replacement or supplement to conventional urban stormwater infrastructure. The study found that, on average, green infrastructure practices are just as effective as conventional stormwater infrastructure, and are less expensive. In 2012, the Illinois General Assembly established a $5 million discretionary fund to support green infrastructure projects in communities around the state, a strong start to helping these areas plan and prepare for potential weather extremes.

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