Open up your pantry, refrigerator or first-aid kit and chances are you’ll wind up stumbling upon a small treasure-trove of medicines tucked away in a box for safe-keeping. And while you may think of keeping your medicines around for emergencies, it is worth keeping in mind that like all things, medicines are also prone to expiring! Which brings us to the question: can you just throw your unused or expired medicines into the bin?
You really shouldn’t throw away your unused or expired medicines in the bin
Well, the short answer is ‘cannot’. And pharmacist Sean Liew has recently taken to social media to share why that is. Prior to joining the trade, he admits that without knowing the consequences of his actions, he would also throw away unused or expired medicines into wastebins or drains without a second thought. After all, if you can dispose of food that way, why not medicine?
According to Sean, as medicines contain specific compounds and active ingredients, disposing them callously without a second thought into the bin or worse still, into drains, can lead to some pretty serious ramifications for the environment. For example, medicines that contain hormones can disrupt the growth and maturity of marine life if they are disposed into drains that lead into open bodies of water. And improperly disposed antibiotics can even contribute to antibiotic resistance in certain bacteria!
This is further corroborated by the Ministry of Health’s own findings, which also advocate for their safe disposal.
Wait, how long does it take for medicines to expire?
But first, let’s talk about how long your medicines can last in general. In conversation, Sean told Wau Post that most medicines in tablet-form can last for a pretty long time, provided that they are kept refrigerated or in room-temperature surroundings. But syrups, such as ones used to treat common colds and coughs, are best used within three months after opening.
“People will typically put syrups in the fridge, but it is actually not required. Any syrups once opened can last up to 3 months or until its expiry date, after which it has to be discarded. The same goes for eye/ear drops, which last about one month on average after being opened.” he said.
And if you’re thinking you can hoard your medicines for an emergency, it’s probably for the best that you don’t do that. Sean mentions that it is unadvisable to consume medicines past their expiry date as there is no knowing if the formulations are still stable, or worse still, if the efficacy of your medicines have been affected.
Here’s how you can safely dispose your medication at zero cost
So after you’ve checked your pantry, fridge, or first-aid kit for any surplus or expired medicines, the next step is to figure out how to dispose of it. If not in the bin, then where else? Well thankfully, all you’ll actually need to do is drop by your nearest Alpro Pharmacy outlet and dispose your medicines in the designated Unwanted Medicine Disposal bins! Here are a few simple steps to get you on your way:
Sean explains that upon disposal, Alpro Pharmacy will proceed to hand the waste over to a trusted and licensed waste management company, where the medication will be incinerated as per standard procedure. The medicines will not be recycled. What’s more, the service is provided absolutely for free! To locate your nearest Alpro Pharmacy, click here.
Alternatively, you may also visit any government pharmacy operated by the Ministry of Health, which also provides medicine disposal services as well.
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