Thursday, July 25, 2013

Health & Beauty Products - Healthy & Beautiful Environment

Cleaning Out the Health & Beauty Cupboard Responsibly

Do old, expired, and unused pills, capsules, tubes, and bottles go to your bathroom cupboard to die and thereby turn your bathroom into a drugstore mausoleum? Do you routinely clear out unwanted and outdated items? I tackled this household task starting a year or so ago, and just finished it today due to complications of safe disposal. Caring for the environment puts a whole new spin on the Gospel admonition to love your neighbor!

A year or so ago, I emptied our "health and beauty cupboard" of all expired, old, unused materials, and bagged them up to go. But go where? This became overwhelming due to my interest in being good to the environment and my lack of answers to some key questions. I knew I couldn't simply toss it all in the weekly trash.

So there the big bag sat. And sat. And sat, collecting dust, a monument to my American life and the ever necessary drugstore sundries. Each time I went in our bathroom, it would haunt me quietly from its corner, though on many days I was blind to it. I no longer noticed it. It waited, gathering dust and suffering from the neglect of a project yet to be finished. Those unfinished projects have a way of adding to one's stress. The unanswered questions remained. What is the best thing to do with all that? Where do I dispose of it in a responsible way? Things my mother never taught me, that now are an issue.

It was clear from online articles, reports, and common sense when I'd read the ingredients, that these items do not belong in a landfill. Perhaps many others would simply carry it to the trashcan and be done with it. Over it. That wasn't good enough. Our environment suffers pollution and makes us sick due to toxic items that make their way into our soil and water. Scary stories exist on the Internet (no surprise!), like sterile male fish who suffered from birth control pills ending up in the water supply. Seriously, I read that and I don't have time to determine truth from legend. Anyway, I froze in my steps, burdened to figure out the best way to take care of all these medications, lotions, sprays, and nail polish, dragging this project on way too long.

Summer vacation is drawing to a close. It's back-to-work in about a week and a half, well past time to tackle my summer project list. I walked through our home, making note of tasks to be done that would have some impact. My bathroom bag of goodies gone bad hit the top of my mental list. Today became the day to break free of this little task that had become way too much of a burden.

As many of you know, the simple answer to the question, "How do you eat an elephant?" is, of course, one bite at a time. So I took on my task and broke it into small steps to release the pressure of figuring it all out and doing everything. Open the bag. Look inside. Listen to the questions that popped into mind. Research answers online. Proceed to sort.

My question remained: Where do I dump the various things that come out of the typical bathroom cupboard?

Here's what I learned. My pharmacy no longer accepts old medicine. Perhaps yours does. I did locate a local sheriff's department office that has a drop box for such items. I also came across information on the National Take-Back Day sponsored by the Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency known as the DEA. However, that only happens once or twice a year, and I refused to procrastinate any longer, if possible. So that takes care of the medicines, over-the-counter and prescription. I also learned other health and beauty products need to go in the hazardous waste category, and would have to wait to be disposed of until the next local hazardous waste collection event.

After gathering three grocery paper bags (and yes, they still come in handy), and a big plastic food bag that seals, I began sorting the items:

  1. Bag 1 (Plastic, 1-gallon, closable): Prescription Medications: Remove labels to prevent personal information getting into the wrong hands. I will take these to the drop box at my local sheriff's office. I need to call first, because sometimes the drop boxes are full, need to be emptied, and no additional items can be deposited until then.
  2. Bag 2: Toxic health and beauty supplies: If it is an aerosol can or has chemicals listed in the ingredients, or you just wouldn't want to eat or drink it, I considered it hazardous waste of the chemical sort. I'll let the hazardous waste collectors make the final determination. I will take these to the next local hazardous waste collection.
  3. Bag 3: Loose pills, tablets, capsules - non-prescription (Plastic, 1-gallon, closable): I emptied supplements, lozenges, etc. - more harmless items into the bag loose. I disposed of the empty containers in Step 4. The bag of non-prescription, non-toxic items can be put in the trash, but one sight recommends adding used coffee grounds or anything to prevent children and animals from eating the contents. Another sight suggestion adding water to the bag to dissolve. The plastic bag will go into the landfill and last for years, so I'll keep reading to figure out a better way.
  4. Bag 4 Recycling: I put empty plastic containers, boxes, and foil wrappers in this bag from emptying the contents into Step 3.
Once everything was sorted, I sealed the big plastic bag and set it inside the hazardous waste bag, and closed all four bags, labeling each. I set the medication bag near the door to be delivered to the sheriff's later today. Hazardous waste went to the garage to await the next collection event. The recycling went out to the blue recycling container. Done! Finished! Freedom! The bathroom looks better. I feel better. And it all took less than an hour after all that procrastination. Of course. And one thing I know now, consuming less and using what you buy would make this all easier, too.

Now there is a plan in place for the next attempt to update the health and beauty cupboard. Sure, this took more time than simply dumping it all in the trash dumpster. But I feel better knowing I took a little time to protect the environment which in turn is a great way to love your neighbor!

Do you pay attention to expiration dates? Does your pharmacy take back old medicines to help you dispose of them? What do you do when you clean out the medicine cabinet, or the health and beauty cupboard as I like to call it?

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