‘The Need is Clearly There’

A hand reaches for a pile of pills spilling out of a medication bottle on a table top
Drug take-back bins help solve complex problem and keep communities healthy.

Drug take-back bins help solve complex problem

by Anne Stokes

Take-back bins prevent unused medications and medical sharps from being misused and keeps them from polluting the environment. We talked to Daniel Gonzalez, Program Manager of the California Health Collaborative, a member organization of the Central Valley Opioid Safety Coalition, to understand how bins keep communities healthy.

“It bridges a gap by providing an outlet for proper disposal for many community members.”

Daniel Gonzalez, Program manager, California Health Collaborative

How do medication take-back bins benefit the communities they’re in?

I think it’s a great service that’s been implemented across the county in many communities here. It bridges a gap by providing an outlet for proper disposal for many community members. It’s really a useful utility to dispose of unused and expired medications.

What are the risks of not disposing of medications responsibly?

There are plenty of risks of not disposing of them properly and allowing them to accumulate, especially if they’re expired. Clearly the biggest one is accessibility to them. If parents, adults, or guardians are not properly securing those medications, you have the access, which is the number one contributor of the abuse, misuse, and overdoses that we see throughout the U.S.

If you’re not properly disposing of them and simply discarding them into the trash can without taking any precautionary steps, you’re indirectly encouraging that access to individuals who may rummage through that trash or creating complications for the environment as well.

How well are the bins being received and used?

It varies based on site; some sites utilize it more than others depending on the size of the community and the accessibility to them. For example in Clovis, which is about a five-minute drive from the urban area of Fresno, there are easily hundreds of pounds that are collected a month there. The need is clearly there.

What type of materials can be accepted?

At these bins, it’s only the medications themselves. We highly encourage and educate our public to just dispose of the medications themselves: they have to dispose of the medication containers on their own and remove any personal information listed on those medical containers.

What materials cannot be disposed of in the bins?

Any liquid containers, trash, and no sharps. And in our boxes we always place decals that discourage and educate the people to ensure that they’re knowledgeable on what’s allowed to be disposed of in there.

For more information on what types of medications can be accepted, take-back bin locations or to apply for a bin, visit https://www.takebackdrugs.org/.