University course to host drug take-back event


Students in an ENG 315 Learning in Community (LINC) class pose with fish costumes to advertise for the Medicine Take-back Event on Thursday at the Illini Union.

When the polymer-coated pills in the bathroom cabinet expire or go unused, many consumers simply toss them into the trash, just as they would with a banana peel or eggshell; however, these drugs often end up in the same water supply consumers use to bathe, drink and cook. 

An investigation conducted by the Associated Press in 2008 discovered a number of pharmaceuticals — among them antibiotics, anticonvulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — had leaked into the drinking water supply of at least 46 million Americans. 

Now, one group at the University is doing its part to prevent the improper disposal of medicine.

Engineering 315, a “Learning in Community” (LINC) service course offered at the University, has joined with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant to host a medicine take-back event and recycling fair on Thursday from noon to 6 p.m. on the southwest side of the Illini Union. The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a research, education and outreach organization designed to “empower southern Lake Michigan communities to secure a healthy environment and economy,” according to its website,

The Learning in Community group’s goal is to collect unused and expired medications and other materials that are potentially hazardous to the environment if they are not recycled correctly, through the organizing and planning of a single, “no questions asked” drive. 

“We owe it to ourselves to keep our waterways clean, and levels of hormonal and chemical contamination in water will continue to rise if we don’t think before we flush or toss medications,” said Carlie Leoni, project manager and senior in LAS. “We want to make knowledge of this issue accessible so that proper medicine disposal can become as commonplace as recycling plastic bottles.”

Many similar drives have taken place throughout the nation and the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant have brought these to the area. 

“In the past, a single day medicine take-back event has been hosted by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and they collect roughly 18 pounds of unwanted or expired medication during each event,” said Rosalee Celis, another project manager and senior in Engineering. “However, since our take-back event will be the first on the UIUC campus, we are expecting to collect below that.”

The drive, with its collection to be supervised by the University Police Department, is one of two events this year that will be hosted by the Learning in Community course. The drugs collected from the event will be given to University police where they will be properly disposed of and incinerated. 

Though the event is gauged toward the collection of medicine and other hazardous materials, the group’s ultimate goal for the drive is to raise awareness on how to safely and properly handle the recycling of medicine and other pharmaceuticals. 

“If we collect medicine, that’s fantastic, but really, we want people to learn about safer and alternative methods of disposing their unused medications,” said Dwani Patel, a project group member and senior in Engineering. “It will ultimately benefit our environment and health.” 

Eliseo can be reached at [email protected]