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Enciby Enci

We live in a world where technology gets reinvented faster than ever and materials don’t even get to be worn out before they become obsolete, useless, or outdated.

That’s why I always welcome companies who take back their old products, regardless of whether I buy a new one or just want to recycle. MAC Cosmetics has been taking back their empty bottles, jars, and old makeup articles for a long time. Pep Boys takes back tires and oil and other waste, no questions asked. Even Staples takes back empty ink cartridges and even ends up rewarding the customer with Staples cash.

I believe it’s time that all companies take responsibility for the waste that “walks out their door.” After all, it would be easier for people to do the right thing if products and packaging could be returned to the point of origin, instead of having to drive miles out of the way to inconvenient locations with limited hours of operation.

Camera stores still don’t take back old film, batteries, or chemicals that were bought in their store, which I think is just outrageous! Grocery stores don’t take back cans, bottles, and plastic packaging like they do in some countries in Europe and I think they should. Business owners should train the customer to come back to their stores and return what went unused. This would not only make us, the consumer, more responsible, but also the manufacturer, if they knew that they will get their “trash” sent back, and it would make the stores more responsible by asking their sellers to package lightly and sustainably.

The benefit of requiring the merchant to participate in the cycle of consumption is twofold, it’s convenient for the consumer but it also motivates the merchant to participate in reducing waste before it’s created, knowing that excess packaging will return and become their responsibility. Their feedback to manufacturers will be self-serving but it will also be based on a newfound commitment to sustainability.

The creation of a sustainable mechanism for the disposal of medicine is important because the traditional method has been for consumers to flush the drugs down the drain where they end up in our water supply or to toss them in the trash where they can end up in the wrong hands.

Finally, it now seems as if those days are over because there are now several pharmacies that do in fact help you to get rid of your medication in a healthy and sustainable way.

In my May Networker article I mentioned that LADWP monitors our water under very strict guidelines and they test the water every day of the year, including weekends and holidays. The bottling manufacturers, on the other hand, are not required to follow the same strict state and federal guidelines and regulations and, in fact, tests have revealed that some bottled waters contain harmful chemicals that would not be allowed in tap water.

I went to several pharmacies to inquire and I found two places who take back medicine, or rather, they provide you with an envelope, so you can ship the medicine at no cost to a recycling facility.

Walgreens provides envelopes to customers if asked, but they charge a couple dollars for each envelope. The shipping is free, so if you only have a Walgreens near your home, spending a bit of money on the envelope is still better than driving far away to drop off medication at a S.A.F.E. Center or even worse, dumping your medicine in the trash or down the drain. Ugh! Don’t do that!

I liked CVS Pharmacy’s solution because they provide envelopes called TakeAway Environmental Return System that are free and the shipping of the medication is also free. Woohoo! Drop by your local CVS store and find out if they have one or a couple of these envelopes for you.

If you need to clean out lots of medicine, or if you often come across expired medication because you clean houses, work with the elderly who have plenty of medicine stored away, or if you have a loved one whose medicine cabinet needs to be cleaned out, you can also order some envelopes at no charge by calling 800.772.5657 or by visiting their website to find your nearest pharmacy who participates in this program.

The TakeAway Environmental Return System comes with instructions on what you may or may not put in the envelope.

1. Pharmaceuticals must be in their original containers when placed into the TakeAway envelope. You may mark out your name if desired.
2. Liquids must be wrapped in a paper towel or other absorbent material and placed in a sealed plastic bag (e.g. a zip-lock bag) before being placed inside the envelope. No more than four (4) ounces of liquids can be included in the envelope.
3. The envelope must be sealed carefully and securely.
4. Then you can drop off the envelope a any U.S. Post Office or U.S. Postal Service dropbox, or you can simply hand it to your U.S. postal carrier.

1. DO NOT send controlled prescription drugs (check with your pharmacist).*
2. DO NOT mail syringes, sharps or other medical waste in the envelope.
3. DO NOT overfill the envelope.
4. DO NOT take the envelope to the pharmacist.

Examples of controlled prescriptions (drugs) are:


If you have controlled prescription (drugs), here is what you can do:

Provide to local law enforcement officials
Provide to local take back program with law enforcement
Review online destruction suggestions

Now get ready to go through your medicine cabinet and do good for the environment this month, by disposing of your medicine the right way.

Have a great summer!

Enci is a working actress and also a writer/director at her company Rebel Without A Car Productions.

Enci is the publisher of the theatre site Bitter Lemons, the Co-Founder of the Bike Writers Collective, she’s on the board of Bikeside, on the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force, on the SAG Conservatory Committee, and she works with government entities to make Los Angeles more bike-friendly and bike-conscious.

Contact Enci with article suggestions or find her on Twitter, Facebook and other networking sites to connect. When contacting her, please introduce yourself and tell her you read her column in the Networker.