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Got drugs? Don’t flush them!

Posted on September 26, 2014 by | Comments Off

Medication DisposalThis Saturday, September 27th from 10am – 2pm is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Take a look through your medicine cabinet and I bet you will find at least 1 container of unwanted or expired medication that you should get rid of.    I went through mine and I found not 1, not 2, but 3 containers of expired medication!  Unused medication in your home can be accidentally ingested, stolen, misused, and abused.  According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 6.5 million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs and the majority of these drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from – you guessed it – the home medicine cabinet.  Those are scary facts if you are a parent like me.

So why can’t we all just flush our unused medications?  Wouldn’t that be the easiest way to get rid of them?   Well, yes it’s easy, but it’s not responsible or green – so let’s talk green for a moment.  For about 1.6 million people in Hampton Roads, what you flush down your toilet, or put down any drain in your home, ends up at a HRSD wastewater treatment plant.  These plants are great at reducing biodegradable materials, pathogens, and the nutrient content of our waste before it is discharged into local waterways.  However, they were not designed to remove pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs).  Some of the chemicals in medications and personal care products, like sunscreens and soaps, can get right through these treatment plants and into the environment, and at high enough concentrations, they can harm aquatic organisms.  You may have needed that medication – but the fish certainly do not!  HRSD’s PPCPs in Wastewater brochure provides more information on local and national research efforts surrounding pharmaceuticals in wastewater, but don’t forget that YOUR FLUSH COUNTS.  One of the EASIEST things to do to reduce the concentration of pharmaceuticals in wastewater is to properly dispose of unused medication.  

Participating in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is a great way to safely dispose of drugs.  Just find a collection site near you.  If you can’t make it to a collection site on Saturday don’t worry, we’ve got 2 other options for you:

1.  Find a pharmacy close to you that offers a take back program.  Currently, many local pharmacies are restricted from accepting controlled medications – but this is about to change!  Next month, new DEA regulations will allow pharmacies to become registered collectors and accept unwanted medication via a collection receptacle or a mail-back program.

2.  If you don’t want to wait you can dispose of medications properly at home.  Just follow these 5 steps:

  1. Keep medications in the original bottle.
  2. Mark out all identifying personal information.
  3. Crush solid medications or dissolve them in water.  Mix all medications with kitty litter, sawdust, or another substance that will make it unsuitable for human or animal consumption.   
  4. Seal the bottle with a lid.
  5. Conceal the bottle within a non-recyclable container and put it in the trash for landfill disposal.

I know what you are thinking ….”but Sarah, 5 steps is a lot, I don’t have time for that”.  Oh yes you do!  And to prove just how easy it is, my 3-year old is going to show you how to do it.  Remember those 3 expired bottles of medication I found tucked away in my medicine cabinet?  Madelyn is about to dispose of them – check it out!  And keep in mind while watching that you can probably do this much faster without a toddler!

Posted in: Going Green, Research, Uncategorized, Waterways

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Cleanup Our Water this Fall

Posted on September 12, 2013 by | Comments Off

waterway has had a busy start to the fall and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon! There are so many great green events in Hampton Roads coming up this fall. We especially want to encourage everyone to check out the 2013 Virginia Waterway Cleanup schedule.

Clean Virginia Waterways, an award-winning non-profit dedicated to environmental stewardship of Virginia’s waterways, is holding their annual Virginia Waterway Cleanup as part of the International Coastal Cleanup. This annual cleanup of trash and litter from rivers, streams and beaches attracts thousands of volunteers from the mountains to the ocean each September and October. Volunteers also collect valuable information about the litter and debris they find during their cleanup. This data provides much needed insight into littering behavior and helps target solutions for the future. Last year, volunteers cleaned up over 490,000 pounds of litter and trash from Virginia’s waterways.  The top three items recovered were beverage bottles (plastic), cigarette butts, and plastic bags – all of which are potentially recyclable!

If you are looking for a great way to enjoy the fall weather while giving back to your community and your waterways, check out one of the many waterway cleanup events scheduled in the Hampton Roads region.

Posted in: Beautification, Community events, Don't litter!, Research, Waterways

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Avoiding BPA for Baby’s Sake

Posted on January 9, 2013 by | Comments Off

There have been several new bundles of joy added to the family recently, and with my own little girl on the way, we thought it might be fun to do a green baby blog miniseries. Before you click away because you’re not pregnant, let’s ease into this with a general topic but one many mommies worry about. Is BPA, or Bisphenol A, which is found in many plastic products as bad as people say? Since I’ve been thinking about baby bottles, I decided it’s time to investigate, and some interesting info popped up.

The properties in the chemical BPA make it especially good for making hard plastics like water and baby bottles. It’s also used as an epoxy to line metal based food and beverage cans, like tuna cans and formula containers. According to the FDA’s website, studies show that for most humans the amounts of BPA we might consume appears safe.  For babies however, the FDA states, “…the National Toxicology Program expressed “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to Bisphenol A.” In July 2012, the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups but hasn’t taken that action for baby formula cans. The agency’s current stance is that the nutritional benefits of the formula outweigh the potential BPA risks.

The most interesting part of my research was discovering all the other places BPA is found; I assumed it was just a bottled water concern.  Did you know it’s even on some receipt paper and CDs? It seems studies are still ongoing as to the health effects on humans but it has me thinking about my own food and beverage containers and what I might be passing on to my baby.

Posted in: Going Green, Research

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What Happens to Litter on a Rainy Day

Posted on February 8, 2012 by | Comments (1)

Litter in stormwater

Someone litters somewhere. Maybe it was an accident, but probably it was on purpose. According to research by Keep America Beautiful81 percent of littering behavior is intentional. Before you know it, pieces of that litter, particularly the plastic litter, are swirling around in the Atlantic Ocean!?! Don’t believe me? Stay with me for a minute.

Once litter is in the water or storm drain, it may cling to the shoreline, get caught in the plants in the waterway, or get hung up on other litter for a while. Eventually, though, it washes downstream into a river or even straight into the Chesapeake Bay. In our area, all drains and waterways lead to the Bay.The trash lies where it is littered until wind or water moves it, often into a ditch or a storm drain. Sometimes plastic bags are blown into a tree or a shrub. From the tree or shrub the plastic bag can end up very quickly in the water. Eventually, however, all paths in Hampton Roads lead to water.

Once in the Bay, the litter either washes up on the beaches, sinks to the bottom, or sweeps out into the ocean on the tides and currents. According to the EPA’s National Marine Debris Monitoring Program 49 percent of debris on beaches is definitely from land-based sources and another 33 percent could come from either land- or ocean-based activities. Land-based activities include individuals who litter (remember those intentional littering behaviors?) or commercial activities that result in litter (construction, garbage removal, etc). Some of it comes from storm debris, too.

Out in the Atlantic Ocean, the plastic litter (mostly), moved by wind, wave, and current, finds its way into gyres, areas where currents converge in an inward swirling motion. The debris, mostly polyethelene (think plastic jugs and bags), polypropylene (soda bottle lids, for example), and polystyrene (cups, cheap coolers, etc.) plastic, forms a soupy mix of plastic pieces that “are generally small – no bigger than your smallest fingernail – with a mass less than that of a paper clip”, according to Sea Education Association, an organization that has been studying this garbage patch for more than 20 years. The small pieces of plastic float at or near the surface of the water, but are hard to see because they are so small. SEA actually uses nets to capture and study some of this mess.

There is a direct link between the hand that throws the litter and the debris in the ocean. Why should we care? This is the gist what SEA says: plastic debris threatens marine animals through entanglement and ingestion. The plastic bits provide nice homes for invasive species to ride to other parts of the ocean. AND plastic carries toxins like PCBs and others and then can be eaten by fish that we eat. Think about sea turtles caught in plastic and with bellies full of plastic bags, and some our favorite fish eating the little bits and passing their toxins along to us. These are just a couple of examples, there are many other animals affected as well.

What can YOU do about it?

• NEVER litter.

• Insist that family and friends never litter – share information about the harm litter does with them.

• Tie up your garbage bags so litter cannot get out when the wind blows.

• If you notice litter around a business or agency, complain about it to the management.

• Volunteer to help pick up litter through various cleanup programs throughout the region.  Or just pick it up when you see it!  There’s no time like the present to make a difference.

• Write blogs or letters to the editor highlighting how good it is to keep things clean and how awful it is to litter. In other words, speak up!

Posted in: Don't litter!, Keeping storm drains free, Research, Waterways

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Geography Awareness Week

Posted on November 14, 2011 by | Comments Off

This year’s Geography Awareness Week theme–The Adventure in Your Community–promotes the idea that the geographic perspective is an important way to understand every community, no matter what size, or how long or briefly one has been a part of it.

National Geographic and partners invite families, teachers and students to visit to begin completing geographic missions and earning rewards. A wealth of valuable resources, including printable posters, mission booklets and an organizing toolkit are available for teachers, parents and students on the Geography Awareness Week website.

Posted in: For educators, Research, Service Learning

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