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Making Your Pharmacy Greener

  • December 4, 2013
  • RPh on the Go

pharmacy-green-initiativesGreen relations are the new trend, and companies are jumping on the bandwagon to show their commitment to the environment and their customers. Many customers shop at companies which embrace a “green” framework, and the pharmacy has been impacted by a number of ways that relate to the environment and ensuring that resources are available for future generations to enjoy. Only two-thirds of the waters are currently suitable for fishing, and human habitats are quickly encroaching upon that of native plant and animal life. Medical facilities use as much energy per square foot as office spaces do, and contribute up to 8% of the total carbon footprint in the world. Here are some ways that the pharmacy field can go green, and help the environment and its customers in the process.

The most obvious waste is produced through packaging of medications. As technology has progressed, medicine has gone from being available in bulk packaging and separated into individual prescriptions to elaborately designed packages that double as advertising space. It is estimated that between 10-35% of every package of medication is discarded as waste. Pharmacies can suggest that manufacturers address the issue by minimizing packaging and discontinuing outdated products.

Pharmacies can help reduce waste and further green initiatives by starting to recycle at the store level. This can mean purchasing recycling bins, or designating old totes or containers for specific types of trash. Recyclable materials can be sorted by plastic, glass, paper, and trash. In some cases, food may be able to be composted. Up to 62% of the waste that health care related fields send to landfills is able to be recycled. In some areas of the country, cardboard is also recyclable, so nearly every bit of packaging can be separated into a corresponding bin to be sorted. Be aware of the pickup dates and recycling regulations of your town, and encourage your staff members to do their part by recycling what they can. Paperwork can be shredded and saved for associates or customers with small animals or used to line flower beds to prevent weeds outside of your store.

Pharmacies can also help their customers and the environment by helping to ensure proper disposal of medications. Many communities offer disposal programs that send unwanted prescriptions and OTC medications to an incinerator rather than a landfill. Incinerating medications ensures that no APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients) get into the water or air. If pharmacy customers returned 50% of their unused medications to their pharmacy, and disposed of 50% at home, APIs in the environment would be reduced by up to 93%. Customers are becoming more aware of the impact that improper medication disposal can have on the drinking water and their community at large, but many still use outdated and dangerous disposal methods. Pharmacies can educate their customers by focusing on medication disposal strategies that prevent AP’s from getting into drinking water.

By following these simple suggestions, pharmacies can help their locations increase their green footprint throughout the coming year.

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