County medicine-collection program being expandedA program that collected more than 500 pounds of unwanted medicines in six months in St. Louis County has been expanded to seven more communities.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
A program that collected more than 500 pounds of unwanted medicines in six months in St. Louis County has been expanded to seven more communities.
Law enforcement offices in Virginia, Hibbing, Babbitt, Gilbert, Eveleth, Ely and Floodwood now have drop boxes where residents can safely and anonymously dispose of any form of medication, both prescription and over-the-counter, according to the St. Louis County Environmental Services Department.
Collecting medicines ensures that they won’t adversely affect the environment, lead to accidental poisonings or contribute to prescription drug abuse, said Sarah Lerohl, environmental program coordinator for the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District.
“If they didn’t come to us, where would these hundreds of pounds of … prescriptions be going?” Steve Steblay, supervising deputy in Duluth for the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, said.
In cooperation with WLSSD, drop boxes were set up in May at the Public Safety Building in Duluth, and at the Hermantown and Proctor police departments, Lerohl said. From May through October, they brought in 558 pounds of unused medicines, she said.
Collections haven’t let up since then, Steblay said Friday.
Steblay said he was initially surprised by the response. The drop boxes, which are similar to U.S. postal mailboxes, have to be emptied at least once a week, he said.
“We thought, ‘We’re going to let this big mailbox into our lobby and it would be sitting there (empty) as an eyesore,’ ” Steblay said. Instead, “every week it’s full to the top.”
The drop boxes supplement quarterly “medicine cabinet cleanout” collections WLSSD has at its Courtland Street headquarters. Since the first collection on Oct. 6, 2007, more than 10,000 pounds of medicine have been collected, according to data Lerohl provided.
The biggest collection was the most recent, on Oct. 12: 1,574 pounds. That was largely because the household of a deceased pharmaceutical representative brought in almost 1,000 pounds of unused medicines, Lerohl said.
Law enforcement must supervise the collection because controlled substances are included, Lerohl said.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency permitted police to have collection sites beginning about two years ago, and Carlton County was a pilot site for the program, Lerohl said.
The unwanted drugs are taken to a facility in Fosston, Minn., where they are incinerated, the Environmental Services Department said in a news release.
St. Louis County Environmental Services now offers seven “Take it to the Box” medicine-disposal sites, a news release from the agency said.
Both prescription and nonprescription drugs are accepted in any form, including pills and capsules, blister packs, creams and gels, inhalers, IV bags, liquids, patches, powders, sprays and vials.
Unacceptable items include needles, syringes, lancets and thermometers, as well as medicines from businesses.
Medications can be kept in their original container. The customer’s name may be crossed off if desired, but that is not required.
Sites and collection times are:
Previously existing sites in St. Louis County:
In Douglas County:
In Carlton County:
For more information: