Or, ever wonder if the pharmacy you visit is really green? I was doing research on pharmacies today and started wondering about this. Sure, there’s the usual use of brown paper bags and using fluorescent lights, but is there something unique to pharmacies that could make them a green business? I decided to do some research and find out.

The first site that pops up in the search is Teleosis. This organization helps medical workers in many fields perform their jobs in sustainable ways. Teleosis has created a program to safely dispose of expired medicines. It’s very good to see medical professionals doing this job, as the medicines could be very dangerous if they get into the groundwater. Even better, Teleosis offers disposal sites that are open to the public. Pharmacies dispose of their own waste according to regulations, but what about their patients? The Green Pharmacy program also tracks the discarded medicines, so they can provide statistics to environmental agencies about the cost of wasted medicines, as well as which medicines are likely to show up in the environment.

Teleosis links to several of its partners, including the California Product Stewardship Council. This council offers tips to California businesses about safely disposing many types of waste. Medication isn’t the only product that a pharmacy or its patients has to discard. Shockingly, a USA Today article linked on this page mentions that hospitals and long term care homes discard at least 250 million pounds of medicine a year into water systems. This even includes controlled substances like narcotics. Many of these sites also mention that this is a huge waste of money. Not only are the expensive medicines unused, it costs additional money to clean them from the waterways.

The EPA currently works with pharmacies and recycling organizations to collect unused medication and dispose of it properly. A project in Maine collected medications with the help of local police departments, the CVS pharmacy, and the Maine department of Environmental Protection. It is good to see that CVS is helping with this project since the company is growing rapidly and has bought out many competitors in California. The pharmacy Walgreens is also active in these programs, partnering with Allen County TRIAD on an initiative in Fort Wayne. Medicines are collected at the Walgreens pharmacies, as the pharmacists there are trained in disposal methods. Safeway mentions many of its recycling programs on its website.