Sunday, August 01, 2010

Prescription for Recycling

First off, thank you for playing the Menopause is like the Mob game with me. I tossed your names into a hat and picked a winner. Kelly, please email me at with your name and address and which book you'd like a copy of -- All Keyed Up or Key of Sea.

I need to rant a little about recycling, specifically, a complete refusal to consider the possibilities of recycling, as demonstrated by someone at the local chain pharmacy store today. I take four prescriptions. Every month, I peel the labels off the pill bottles and then have to chuck them in the trash because they aren't made from recyclable plastic.

I currently take four prescription meds a day, so that's four bottles a month that go in the garbage or 48 a year. I'm sure that there are other customers who take less and other who take more. So, for the sake of discussion, let's say that the average customer takes two meds a month. I don't know how many customers frequent this store, but lets say, arbitrarily, that there are 300. So, at minimum, the pharmacy dispenses 600 pill containers a month. That's 7200 a year from a single store.

I'm sure that the chain buys these in bulk, so maybe they only cost .05 each, but what about the cost to the environment. Don't you think they'd want to recycle or at least reuse the containers? How difficult can it be?

I brought this up to the pharmacist today in casual conversation. I received one negative response after the other. Here's a general recap with the gist of the conversation.

Me: Wow, too bad that we can't bring the bottles back to CVS so they can be reused. Him: The labels contain confidential medical information.
Me: I peel them off every month before I throw them out.
Him: Not everyone does. It's too hard for some older people.
Me: Maybe there are easier labels.
Him: But the pill bottles aren't made out of recyclable plastic
Me: But couldn't they be?
Him: Labels don't stick well on all kinds of recyclable plastic
Me: (With confused look) But there are labels on milk jugs and other plastic containers.
Him: Those kinds of labels can't be printed easily on the laser printer.
Me: Well, instead of recycling, could customers return them to the store so they could be reused?
Him: No, there'd be too many for our staff to take the labels off of.

At that point, I realized the futility of continuing the discussion. All he can see are the reasons why it can't be done, instead of seeking possible solutions for how it could be accomplished. As I left, I thought it ironic

Think about all of the people in all of the towns who fill medication prescriptions. Imagine all of those bottles hitting the landfills day after day, month after month, year after year. Surely someone can figure out a solution.

How difficult can it be to create a recyclable plastic pill bottle to which laser-printer compatible labels will adhere and yet be easy to remove? Barring that, how hard is it to create a laser printer label that can be removed from any plastic so that the bottle could be reused instead of trashed?

Anybody out there work in these fields and want to take this on as a project?

Anybody have a kid who wants to take this on as a project for this year's school science fair?


Susan said...

I'm sure it's not that difficult. Also, we're just taking the word of the guy behind the counter. Do we know that the labels don't stick or is that just his answer to the people who ask (he had lots of answers, no doubt this is a subject that has come up before).

I saved vitamin bottles for my daughter who is a nurse who knew a resident going to Haiti where they needed pill bottles. But that only lasted a while.

What would irritate me is that he had all the negative answers right on the tip of his tongue.

Mary Stella said...

Precisely why I got turned off by the experience.

Paula said...

Not to be contrary, but there are a few good reasons why medication vials aren't recycled.

First of all they would have to be sterilized between each refill. Which would raise the patient costs. The pharmacist doesn't have any leeway in that. It's the law.

Also even though the chances might be very very very slight, there is always the possibility, that the residue from one medication might contaminate a different pill.

The thing why easy peel-off labels aren't a good idea. If they are easy to take off, it's also easy for them to fall off and a person might mistake one pill for another.

Now all that being said, I think recycling old pill bottles is a good idea. Maybe someone can come up with a label that all the personal information will fade away after one or three months.

Okies that was my two cents.

Mary Stella said...

I figured that sterilizing was necessary before reuse, Paula. Thanks for the reminder.

I'm still not sold on the idea that they can't be made of a recyclable plastic that a label would stick to but still be easy to peel away when finished. (I don't have any problem peeling the labels off of my non-recyclable pill bottles.) That way, even if sterilizing proved too costly, perhaps the recycled plastic could be melted down and used for something else.

Susan said...

Let's go back to glass then. That can be sterilized and recycled easily.

Every thing gets too complicated. We're told to recycle but there are more rules to recycling than I can remember!

We have to separate our trash into three types....non-burnable, regular, recycle. And they still leave trash behind. It's got to fit into one of those categories, no? And every pick up is on a different day. So many people just leave a what the men don't pick up hoping that one day it will be picked up.

We used to have to have newspaper separate from cans and and plastic #1 and #2. But now we earn points and get rewards so the cans had to be left out on a particular day to get a label put on them and now all paper, cans, bottles go in the bucket and they weigh it. And people still get stuck with pizza boxes.

I'm all for recycling...but somebody, somewhere has to lay out the rules once and for all!

(Sorry for the rant...but everyday life is getting more and more exhausting....the little things are killing me!) Oy what a day I've had!