Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

The hidden hazards in your home:

How to properly dispose unused medicines
By Expert Tips
Date: September 12 2017
Editor Rating:

They sit in our bathroom cabinet, kitchen drawers and on the shelves of our hallway cupboard yet we often forget they are even there! We are talking about household medicines – and specifically the expired and unwanted kind. When was the last time you reviewed the medicines you store in your home?

It is estimated that there are millions of out-of-date or unused medicines sitting in homes across Australia. These medicines in your home may seem harmless however they pose a huge risk of accidental poisonings and medication mismanagement.

Harmful to children

According to the Australian Poisons Information Centres, 5,580 children were hospitalised due to household medicine poisonings across Australia in 2015 alone, with most accidental poisonings occurring in children who are younger than five years old. The Centre also reported 32,000 calls in relation to children being unintentionally exposed to household medicines in the same year.

Medication mismanagement

Storing any medicines - currently in use, expired or no longer in use - in your home may cause confusion and result in someone reaching for the wrong medicine. Or it might mean someone’s doubles up on the same medicine by mistake. Medicines that are out of date may also not work as efficiently in times of

“The active ingredients in medicines can go off easily. Medicines are designed to be stored in specific temperature conditions. Most of our homes don’t comply with this and where the majority of people keep their medicines is not ideal,” said Toni Riley, RUM Project Manager and consultant pharmacist.

Introducing Return Unwanted Medicines

The good news is there is a free and convenient way to dispose of expired and unwanted household medicines, and it’s available to everyone. All you need to do is take your medicines to your local pharmacy for safe collection and disposal. It’s called Return Unwanted Medicines (or the RUM project).

A recent study conducted with over 4,300 Australians revealed that more than 80% of people are completely unaware of the correct and safe way to dispose of unwanted medicines. Over two thirds of participants stated that they dispose of unwanted medicines with the usual household garbage, followed by nearly a quarter (23.3%) who said they pour medicines down the drain or toilet.

“Don’t flush medicines, put them in the household rubbish bin or pour them down the sink. This can wreck our environment. Instead, return the medicines to a community pharmacy. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s safe.” said Natalie Barr, RUM spokesperson, Channel 7 Sunrise presenter and mum of two.

Follow these steps:

  1. READ: Go to the areas in your home where you store medicines. Read the labels, check expiry dates and review all medicines. Consider whether you actually need them.
  2. REMOVE: Remove all expired and unwanted medicines from your home medicine area and place them in a bag or container
  3. RETURN: Return your expired and unwanted medicines to your local pharmacy. Your pharmacist will put them in a secure bin for safe disposal.

Watch this video with pharmacist Caroline Diamantis and Channel 7, Sunrise presenter Natalie Barr discussing the importance of returning your unwanted and expired medicines to pharmacy.

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