Drugs (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Drugs (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Newly approved changes to the way the federal government handles drug take back boxes may complicate things for local solid waste departments.

A rule passed earlier this year allows those drop boxes in more places than just police stations. Marathon County solid waste department director Meleesa Johnson says that may make it easier for some people to get to a place to turn in unwanted medications. “This piece of legislation changes the law and then instructs the DEA to create this new rule that allows for more locations where these can be taken back including pharmacies, some clinic and hospitals. Those type of things.”

The wording of the legislation only applies to controlled substances, which are only a portion of the drugs Johnson says they get in their boxes. There’s also no provisions in the rule that talk about how the new boxes will be funded. “Some of these issues would have to be addressed, like how is it going to be paid for, what are the logistical and administrative concerns at these additional locations, and it’s a little uncertain how that would all play out.”

Currently the DEA pays for the upkeep and transport of the drugs at boxes at police stations but will not be doing so for new facilities in the future. There are also no guidelines on how pills and drugs need to be destroyed, only that they must be rendered useless as a medication.

Johnson says her department prefers incineration as the most environmentally friendly way to destroy drugs, but that other groups may not take that route. “We certainly don’t want them in the landfill, because they are complex organic molecules, and they don’t necessarily break down the way we want them too. Incineration is the best means, and we’ll continue to pursue that in Marathon County.”

The new rules will take effect in October, after one final federally backed drug take back day September 27th.


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