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Green Pharmacy

The Alameda County Safe Medication Disposal Initiative

Teleosis Institute helped launch the Alameda County Medication Disposal Initiative, in partnership with Supervisor Nate Miley and the Alameda County Senior Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Workgroup. This initiative aimed to develop safe, convenient and environmentally responsible medicine disposal sites throughout Alameda County.

The SafeMEDS Workgroup hosted the two Alameda County Medication Disposal Conferences and developed legislation that became law in Alameda County Safe Medicine Disposal Ordinance in 2012.  As of May 1st, 2014, the ordinance went into effect, making it the first product stewardship law for pharmaceutical waste in the United States.

The Alameda County Safe Medication Disposal Initiative Assessment

Key Findings:

  • In 2009 just 473 pounds were reported from one site. By 2013, the most recent year accounted for, 13,919 pounds were collected and disposed, with an average of 449 pounds per site.
  • The largest collection sites are the Alameda County Sheriff’s Station (1100 pounds), Eden Medical Center (1036 pounds), Washington Hospital (960 pounds) and Ted’s Pharmacy (936 pounds).
  • In 2013, the extrapolated costs of disposal are $27,838, with an average costs per pound of $2.00, down from $2.51 per pound in 2009.

Teleosis Institute offers the following recommendations:

  • Establishing one centralized agency to oversee a countywide program would minimize operational overlap and thus improve collection efficiency.
  • With roughly 51% of the county citizens within close proximity to a take-back site, new sites are necessary for residents that lack easy access to take-back sites.
  • Establishing new sites in larger medical institutions, such as hospitals, would likely provide the most efficient and effective results.
  • Educating pharmacists would likely improve collection rates in pharmacies and educating health executives, health professionals in primary care and end-of-life caregivers will likely improve program outcomes.
  • Centralizing management would simplify the waste collection system and drive cost of disposal down.

Read the Full Report: The Alameda County Safe Medication Disposal Assessment (high resolution)

Green Pharmacy

Unused, expired, and leftover medications in the U.S. are becoming an incredible concern for patient safety and public health. The Teleosis Institute’s Green Pharmacy Program offers a variety of educational programs, services, and resources for reducing unused pharmaceuticals from accumulating in homes and polluting our environment.


Our research explores the nature of unused and unwanted pharmaceuticals accumulation in homes. The research evaluates current strategies to reduce pharmaceutical pollution and seeks to create new models of pharmaceutical take-back programs.


Teleosis Institute consultants help communities develop safe and convenient disposal programs for unused medications. We help build coalitions and working relationships with primary stakeholders involved in pharmaceutical disposal.

What Pharmacists and Health Providers Can Do

  • Do not prescribe more medication than can be used
  • Prescribe starter packs and refill packs
  • Review and regularly reassess the patient’s total consumption of medication
  • Take the online continuing education course available at GreenPharmEdu.org
  • Learn more about which drugs have large environmental impacts
  • Educate consumers about the importance of proper disposal of pharmaceutical waste
  • Become a take-back site

What Consumers Can Do

  • Dispose of unused or unwanted medications at take-back sites or events. Find a medicine take-back location
  • Do NOT dispose of medication down the toilet or in the trash
  • Purchase drugs in small amounts, limiting expired medications
  • Ask for medications with low environmental impact
  • Encourage your provider to take-back unwanted drugs
  • Share the message of safe disposal with family and friends
  • Commit to wellness strategies to reduce your reliance on medications
  • Practice healthy product stewardship

Be Informed and Spread the Word

Learn about the environmental impacts of drugs in our water and ways you can help prevent pharmaceutical pollution. Share our  educational materials   with colleagues, friends, family, and your health provider.

Articles by Dr. Joel Kreisberg

Radio Shows on Green Pharmacy

  • KQED: Drugs in the Water
    Quest hosted by Andrea Kissack, www.kqed.org, July 14, 2008
  • NPR: Medicines Tainting World’s Water
    Marketplace with Sarah Gardner, marketplace.publicradio.org, February 20, 2008

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