Yellow jugs keep drugs from Great Lakes

Read the news about prescription drugs in the Great Lakes?

While treatment plants can’t remove them all, the Great Lakes Clean Water Organization is trying to keep them out of the water in the first place.

“Prevention is the key,” said Chris Angel, president of the Great Lakes Clean Water Organization. “That is what’s going to help make sure this isn’t a problem down the road.”

The non-profit group, which consists of three volunteers, runs the Yellow Jug Old Drugs program to help ensure the proper disposal of prescription drugs.

Participating pharmacies collect unused or unwanted prescription drugs in “very memorable, very identifiable” yellow jugs for free to be transported to a high-temperature incinerator for disposal. Pickups take place two to three times a year.

A couple brings their unused drugs to a pharmacy for disposal. (Image: Great Lakes Clean Water Organization)

A couple brings their unused drugs to a pharmacy for disposal. (Image: Great Lakes Clean Water Organization)

“The goal is not only to provide a viable program, but also to educate people about this issue,” said Angel. “We wanted to take a positive approach, as opposed to telling people what not to do.”

While the program receives grants, most funding comes from the participating pharmacies. Most recent grant funding came from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The grant was intended to assist in funding infrastructure and public education, said Christine Grossman, compliance assistance specialist with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

“The thing that was unique about the Great Lakes Clean Water Organization was that they elected to create a documentary,” said Grossman.

The documentary will air on PBS stations around Michigan over the following months, and will eventually reach out into the other participating states. You can see it above.

The program began in the spring of 2009. Most of the 275 total participating pharmacies are in Michigan, with 33 in Wisconsin and 15 in Illinois.  Organizers hope to have all Great Lakes states participating in the program within the next two years.

As of this year the program has collected more than 42 tons of disposed drug waste. Another 10,000 pounds are expected to collected at the next pickup this coming January.

  • Harold

    It’s important not to flush drugs down the drain…but as long as people are taking prescription drugs, residues of those drugs will end up in our wastewater and then the Great Lakes.