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Improper disposal of medicines is a serious problem in the capital region - Nord News
Improper disposal of medicines is a serious problem in the capital region

Improper disposal of medicines is a serious problem in the capital region

According to a recent study, almost a third (28%) of the residents of the capital region do not return unused or expired medicines to the pharmacy. The study also shows that women take their medical waste to the pharmacy much more often than men. A total of 1,002 people between the ages of 16 and 65 living in the capital region participated in the HSY survey at the end of 2021 – the beginning of 2022.

The greatest need for improvement is among young people

Of the young respondents (16–30 years old), 14% primarily throw medical waste into the trash and 4% into the sewer. Young people also keep unused medicines at home more often than others and return them to the pharmacy less often than others. This may be due to the fact that the youngest respondents were the least aware of the proper disposal of medicines and chemicals. In addition, 16–30-year-olds felt more often than others that recycling and disposal is difficult and requires too much effort.

– From the point of view of the environment, it is important that everyone routinely returns their unused and expired medicines to the pharmacy. Young people should be made aware of the ease and importance of proper disposal of medicines, says an environmental expert Elina Tanner from HSY.

Development manager Taina Nystén The Finnish Environment Agency (SYKE) points out that medicines thrown in the trash or flushed down the drain can end up in the soil, lakes and rivers and the Baltic Sea, which increases the amount of medicinal substances in them. For example, wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove drug residues.

– In Finland, all medical waste generated from the health care of people or animals and from households is classified as hazardous waste. Medicines have been developed to be effective in small doses, which is why even a small amount of medical waste can harm the environment. Damages caused by pharmaceutical waste include hormonal and behavioral disorders of organisms. In the environment, medical waste can also increase antibiotic resistance, i.e. the number of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Therefore, expired and unused medicines should be returned to the pharmacy, says Nystén.

Returning medicines to the pharmacy is easy

There are more than 800 collection points in pharmacies in Finland, from which it is easy to dispose of medical waste even when there is no other need in the pharmacy. The average distance of urban Finns to the nearest pharmacy is two kilometers. If necessary, the pharmacy staff will give instructions on leaving medicines and other necessary information about them.

Now being held for the fifth time, the Medicine-Free Itämeri campaign encourages Finns to return expired and unused medicines to the pharmacy. This year, the campaign focuses especially on encouraging young people to dispose of medicines correctly. The aim of the campaign is also to raise awareness of the stress that medicines cause to the environment if they are disposed of incorrectly.

– There is great concern about our waterways and the Baltic Sea. Our goal is that in the future every Finn returns expired and unused medicines to the pharmacy. Sustainable habits help protect our environment and keep it in good condition from generation to generation, says the Brand Manager Elina Aaltonen from the Finnish Pharmacists’ Association.

The drug-free Baltic Sea campaign is an annual joint project of several organizations. The campaign is carried out by the communications agency Kaiku, and this year it has been made possible by Apteekkariliitto, GSK, HSY, Lääketeollisuus ry, Orion, Oriola, Pihlajalinna, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Finnish Environmental Center SYKE (campaign expert), Tamro, University Pharmacy and the Ministry of the Environment.

Checklist: How to properly dispose of medications

1. Which medicines should be returned to the pharmacy?

Used medicinal patches, solid and liquid medicines, inhalers, tablets and capsules and tubes containing medicine must be returned to the pharmacy.

2. How are medicines sorted?

  • Take the tablets and capsules out of their packaging and put them in a transparent bag. In blister packs, tablets or capsules do not need to be removed from the film strip.
  • Put creams, aerosols and inhalers in a bag without an instruction label.
  • Fold the medicated patches so that the adhesive surfaces are facing each other before placing the patches in the bag.
  • Leave the liquid medicines in the original bottle and put the bottles in a separate bag.
  • Remove the instruction sticker from the plastic and cardboard packaging and sort the waste.

Always Sort the following separately:

  • Medicine containing iodine (packaged in a separate bag in the original packaging).
  • Cytostats (packaged in a separate bag in the original packaging).
  • Syringes and needles (packaged in an impermeable container such as a bottle or jar). Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of insulin needles in your area.
  • Pack mercury thermometers in a separate bag for disposal.

3. What does not need to be returned?

For example, basic creams, nutritional supplements or natural products do not need to be returned to the pharmacy. Dispose of them as mixed waste.

HT

Source: Drug-free Baltic Sea

Source: The Nordic Page

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