Video | How your patients can reduce pharmaceutical pollution at home

To mark the occasion of World Water Day, HCWH Europe has released an animated video explaining how to dispose of pharmaceuticals correctly at home. The video highlights the leading role pharmacists can take in reducing pharmaceutical waste and avoiding pharmaceutical compounds entering water ecosystems. 

The impact of pharmaceuticals on the environment

The discharge of treated and untreated wastewater containing pharmaceuticals into rivers and streams is a significant cause of pharmaceutical pollution. These substances are designed to interact with organic tissues even at low doses and can have a substantial impact on water ecosystems, leading to biodiversity loss or the acceleration of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). 

Contrary to popular belief, hospitals are not the main source of pharmaceuticals in municipal wastewater systems across Europe. Household consumption is the primary contributor to pharmaceuticals being released into the environment. Improper disposal of unused medications, often through sinks and toilets, leads to pharmaceutical residues entering wastewater systems. Persistent traces that cannot be removed by wastewater treatment plants pose risks to aquatic organisms and human health.

Taking action against pharmaceutical waste

To mitigate the environmental effects of pharmaceutical waste, we need to:

  • Improve wastewater treatment methods  
  • Dispose of household medication in a safe manner
  • Involve pharmacists in guiding patients on safe disposal methods and raising awareness
  • Implement take-back programmes at pharmacies for safe disposal of unused or expired drugs
  • Promote responsible prescription and purchasing practices
  • Advocate for the use of greener medicines to minimise environmental impact

Interested in more resources like this?

Sign up to HCWH Europe’s newsletters