January 15, 2020

Enabling Safe Drug Disposal in Rural Communities

Protecting communities is an important aspect of Stericycle’s mission. A new way we are honoring this commitment is by working with The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP)—a non-profit network focused on improving water quality for small communities across the United States. In early 2020, we are partnering with RCAP to bring safe drug disposal solutions to rural areas.

Why is this work so critical?

Appropriately disposing of unused or leftover medications—especially prescription opioids—is essential to keep these dangerous pharmaceuticals out of waterways and landfills. In addition, proper drug disposal can reduce the likelihood that prescription painkillers will fall into the wrong hands.

Unfortunately, many people in rural locations don’t have ready access to proper drug disposal methods. Even if a doctor’s office or pharmacy has a drug disposal kiosk, due to the sprawling nature of rural areas, it may be inconvenient for people to go there and dispose of unused drugs. As a result, individuals may choose to hold on to the medications or flush them down the toilet or sink, causing a number of social and environmental problems. By providing these communities with easy-to-use, readily available drug disposal solutions, Stericycle and RCAP hope to reduce the environmental risks and help stem the tide of rising opioid addiction. Small communities have been hard hit by the opioid crisis. Between 1999 and 2015, opioid death rates in rural areas quadrupled among 18-to-25-year-olds, highlighting the need for safe and convenient drug disposal in these communities.

What does the program entail?

As part of a pilot, RCAP will distribute 10,000 Seal&Send medication mailback envelopes to rural communities in six regions across the United States. The envelopes along with education materials will be sent as part of water and solid waste disposal utility bills. Community members can use the envelopes to safely and sustainably remove leftover medications from their homes, mailing back their unused drugs for disposal and destruction. The envelopes are both secure and anonymous, providing a simple and effective way to get rid of unwanted medications. Not only will this program limit the amount of potentially harmful pharmaceuticals leaching into water systems and landfills in these communities, it will also curb the number of dangerous drugs remaining in homes, helping combat the opioid crisis in these areas. If the program is successful in the initial six regions, the program will be expanded to all 50 states.

Making a difference is part of our DNA

At Stericycle, we are passionate about preserving the health and safety of our customers and their communities. This program is just one of many examples of how we are working to combat powerful health issues confronting the country. To learn more about how Stericycle supports communities in preserving safety, security and the environment, learn about our sustainability program.

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