Leftover drug disposal launched at Stop & Shop

United Water and Stop & Shop has begun a program in 7 Nassau locations that lets the supermarket's pharmacy customers use pre-addressed, postage-paid envelopes for disposal of expired or unwanted medications. Videojournalist: Chuck Fadely (Dec. 3, 2013)

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There's a new way to get rid of unwanted prescription medications in Nassau County, one that also aims to protect its water supply.

A free pilot program for the proper disposal of leftover drugs was launched at the Stop & Shop in Carle Place Wednesday. For the next year, the company's seven Nassau County locations will offer plastic envelopes with prepaid postage for anyone who wants to securely dispose of the medications. They will then be delivered to an incinerator in Texas and destroyed.

"What could be more convenient and easier than a grocery store and a mailbox?" said Adrienne Esposito of the environmental nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which launched the program.

Not only will the program destroy unused medications safely, it also protects the water supply by offering an alternative to simply flushing pills down the toilet, she said.

"It's a permanent, effective solution," Esposito said, adding the pilot program will "serve as a model that can be easily replicated throughout New York." She said 41 percent of groundwater samples on Long Island show the presence of one or more prescription drugs, including antibiotics and anticonvulsant medicines.

Stop & Shop spokeswoman Arlene Putterman said the seven Nassau stores dispense 5,000 prescriptions each week in their pharmacies. If the program is successful, the company will expand to its 18 Suffolk County stores as well.

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"All the unused pills that just sit in the medicine cabinet, the old advice was to flush them down the toilet," Putterman said. "But most of these chemicals pass through septic systems and sewer plants that can't process them."

The pilot's initial $15,000 cost is paid for by United Water, a New Jersey-based company that has expressed interest in privatizing Nassau County's sewer treatment plants -- a proposal that County Executive Edward Mangano has not ruled out, according to county officials.

The program will not accept controlled prescriptions such as oxycodone or Xanax -- those medications should be taken to law enforcement disposal programs such as the disposal boxes inside Nassau police precinct buildings.

Though the medication must be sent in its original packaging, program participants can remain anonymous by taking off patient information labels.

Creams and liquids can also be sent, though liquids should be wrapped in paper towels and sealed in plastic bags as well. The program recommends taking the envelope to a post office, or postal drop box, or handing it to postal carriers.

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