Collection event draws 819 pounds of unwanted medications

Aim is to keep it away from landfills, youngsters

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



By the numbers

The Sept. 29 drug take-back event collected 819 pounds of medical waste. Here’s the breakdown:

637 pounds controlled substances.

89 pounds of sharps.

83 pounds non-controlled and over-the-counter substances.

10 pounds of inhalers.

1/10 pound of mercury thermometers.

More than 800 pounds of unneeded medications are no longer sitting in Clark County residents' medicine cabinets.

Instead, the drugs will be incinerated, keeping them out of the hands of young people and out of local landfills and sewer systems.

Clark County residents surrendered 819 pounds of medical waste during a four-hour drug take-back event at the C-Tran Fisher's Landing Transit Center on Sept. 29. The medical waste included over-the-counter and non-controlled medicines, sharps, inhalers used for asthma, mercury thermometers and controlled substances, such as oxycodone, Vicodin and other prescription narcotics.

Including recyclable material, such as pill packaging, the event collected 1,139 pounds of material, said Sean Chavez with the PREVENT! Coalition. During the four-hour event, 343 vehicles visited the transit center, he said.

"We had two lines of vehicles going," Chavez said. "It was pretty consistent."

Volunteers surveyed people as they waited to hand over their medications. A majority of those who participated were 40 years or older and found out about the event from the newspaper. Most people said they were dropping

off the medicines because they were expired or because they belonged to a family member who had died, Chavez said.

"The vast majority of people have been holding onto these for more than two years," he said. "It shows you again of the potential danger of having these in the cupboard."

The drug take-back event was hosted by the Clark County Sheriff's Office, Clark County Environmental Services, PREVENT! Coalition, C-Tran and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

The DEA hosts nationwide take-back events twice a year. The DEA event at Clark College earlier this year brought in more than 950 pounds of medical waste.

The Sept. 29 total was a record for the Fisher's Landing site. Last October, the event there collected 279 pounds of medical waste.

In addition to the DEA events, the Clark County Sheriff's Office and municipal police departments, with the exception of the Vancouver Police Department, collect controlled substances at their offices during business hours. So far this year, they've collected about 800 pounds of drugs, said Jim Mansfield, with county environmental services. The departments pick up the tab to incinerate the drugs.

Clark County's Environmental Services Department also pays to collect and destroy non-controlled substances that residents drop off at pharmacies. So far in 2012, the program has collected more than 5,000 pounds of medicines, Mansfield said.

To find a nearby drop-off location, visit Recycling A-Z.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546;;;