The Hottest Drugs…but only for a few minutes

Rx Spt 15 - 4
Cars line up at the Cortlandville fire station to drop off unused medications

Rx Sept 15 - bagsOver 200 cars drove through for the recent medication collection event that allows people to safely dispose of medication they are no longer using. Since the program was introduced five years ago, community members have safely disposed of 10,803 pounds of unused, expired and unwanted over-the-counter and prescription medications free of charge, safely and securely.

So what happens to all those medications?

The destruction of the medication must be witnessed by two law enforcement officials and one civilian. Under the supervision of the County Sheriff’s Department, the medications are taken to the Oswego County Energy Recovery Facility where they are safely incinerated. The facility processes 50 tons of burnable garbage every day. “We can incinerate 500 pounds of burnable garbage every six minutes,” said Plant Manager Pat Ryan.  Burning at 1,800 degrees, the incinerator turned the medications to ash in minutes.

Rx Sept 15 -3Oswego County built the plant 30 years ago to convert waste to energy. A sophisticated air pollution control system and periodic plant upgrades have kept the facility in compliance with the Clean Air Act and other regulations. “We are a zero discharge plant to the environment,” said Ryan. “The ash is sent to the landfill and used as cover material. We recover all ferrous materials and send them to Weitsman, a metal recycling company.”

Steam energy produced by the plant’s boilers is sold to a local manufacturer through a long standing partnership with the facility.  In addition, the plant generates four megawatts of electric power – enough to supply 3,000 to 4,000 Oswego County homes.

Incinerating the collected medications is a small task for the Energy Recovery Facility but Ryan is happy they can provide the service. “Incinerating the meds keeps them out of the water table which is better for the environment,” he said.

About the Medication Collection Program

The medication collection event helps individuals who may not normally be aware of what to do with unused medications. Sometimes people do not know how to properly dispose of their unused medicine, often flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away – both potential safety and health hazards.

Medications stored at home are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the United States continue to increase at alarming rates, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these prescriptions being left lying around. Studies show that the majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

The next drive through collection event will be on April 30, 2016.  However, the Rx Task Force has also implemented medication disposal boxes throughout the community. The boxes offer residents the chance to immediately dispose of unused medication so it is not accessible in the home. The boxes are available 24/7 at the following locations: the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department, the City of Cortland Police Department, SUNY Cortland Police Department, and from 9am-5pm at the Village of Homer Police Department.