The secret war on waste in all of our bathroom cabinets.

TerryWhite Chemmart
Thanks to our brand partner, TerryWhite Chemmart

When the milk goes off, you don’t drink it. The same goes for expired medication, but not everyone knows that’s the case. Studies show that there are millions of expired and unwanted medicines sitting in homes all over Australia. Mine was one of them. A few weeks ago, I decided to clean out my family’s medicine cabinet and found lots of medicines that were either out of date or no longer needed.

I soon realised that I had no idea what to do with them. Leaving expired medication around or disposing of it incorrectly can be damaging to you, your family and the environment. So I visited my pharmacist for some answers and she dispelled a lot of the myths about disposing of medications. Let’s bust the myths:

Myth: It’s OK to use medication after it has expired.

Fact: The expiry date of your medication is scientifically formulated. After that date, pharmaceutical companies can no longer guarantee that the medicine is stable and effective. Over time, many medicines lose their potency and can become hazardous due to a change in their chemical composition. Don’t take the risk. It’s best to dispose of expired medication and buy a new supply if needed.

Medication thrown in the rubbish bin can be found and consumed by inquisitive kids. Image: Supplied.

Myth: It’s OK to throw expired or unused medication in general waste.

Truth: Throwing medication in your rubbish bin is not safe, especially if you have kids or pets. They can easily find and consume the medication which can have devastating consequences. Also consider where the medication will end up – in landfill where it can have a detrimental effect on the environment.

Myth: It’s OK to flush medicines down the toilet or pour them down the drain.

Truth: Medicines that are flushed down the toilet or poured down the drain end up passing through sewerage systems and treatment plants and landing up in our rivers, lakes, bays and oceans. Pharmaceuticals then contaminate our waterways causing hormonal effects and toxicity in aquatic animals. All over the world, scientists have discovered fish contaminated with birth control pills, antidepressants, sedatives and antibiotics. Pharmaceutical water pollutants also end up in surface water, ground water and even drinking water.

" I visited my pharmacist for some answers." Image: Supplied.

So what can we do about it? How can we dispose of unwanted and expired medicines in a way that keeps our family safe and protects the environment? It comes down to three Rs – Read, Remove, Return.

  1. Read the labels of all the medicine you have in your home. If it’s expired or no longer needed, put it to one side.
  2. Remove the unwanted medicines and put them in a sealed bag or container.
  3. Return them to your local pharmacist who will safely dispose of them for free.

The Australian Government introduced the National Return and Disposal of Unwanted Medicines program back in 1998. The program allows anyone to dispose of expired or unwanted medicines free of charge by returning them to their local pharmacy. The medicines are then placed in special bins which are collected by pharmaceutical wholesalers for incineration via ethical and environmentally friendly means.

Got unwanted and expired medicines in your home? Dispose of them in a safe and ethical way by returning them to your local pharmacy. It’s that simple.

What's your best home health tip to keep you and your family safe? Share with us in the comments below.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner TerryWhite Chemmart.