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Home > Feature Articles > Municipality Strategies for Sustainable Community Best Practices

Covanta Energy Collects Unwanted Medications for Communities to Reduce Water Pollution

Drugs that are disposed of down sinks and toilets, or simply thrown in the trash, can cause environmental harm - now they can be disposed of with waste-to-energy programs.

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To reduce pharmaceutical pollutants being discharged into the nation's waterways, Covanta Energy is launching an important collaboration with municipalities. As more and more communities establish collection centers for unwanted medications, Covanta will offer, for 2010, a free disposal and destruction service designed to keep these products out of the nation's waterways.

Preventing Pharmaceuticals In Streams and Rivers

"Studies have shown that pharmaceuticals are present in our nation's streams and rivers. We want to help prevent the discharge of these drugs into the waters that we drink, the waters where we fish and the waters where we swim," said John G. Waffenschmidt, Vice President, Environmental Science and Community Affairs. "Our facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art combustion controls and air pollution control equipment to ensure the destruction of these drugs in an environmentally sound manner, one that protects the water we depend upon day in and day out. Our facilities ensure that any pharmaceuticals processed in them do not end up in surface waters."

Energy-from-Waste Solutions to Unwanted Medications

Covanta Energy, specializing in the development, ownership and operation of Energy-from-Waste (EfW) facilities and other renewable energy projects, is rolling out a national program to process pharmaceuticals collected by local governments in drug take-back programs. These programs provide residents with a safe and proper way to dispose of unwanted medications, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter and veterinary medications and nutritional supplements.

When flushed down the drain, or disposed of in landfills, such products contaminate surface waters and have an adverse effect on the environment, humans and natural biodiversity.

Covanta is a Sustaining Partner of the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), a non-profit group which has been spearheading national efforts to define steps for appropriately handling unwanted drugs. Covanta has worked with PSI, various regulatory agencies, and with municipalities to reduce the potential for contamination of waterways by discharged pharmaceuticals.

"Drugs that are disposed of down sinks and toilets, or simply thrown in the trash, can cause environmental harm," said Scott Cassel, Executive Director of the Product Stewardship Institute. "Take-back programs can lower the environmental and health risks associated with waste pharmaceuticals. Covanta's offer will reduce the cost of take-back programs in municipalities that choose this kind of destruction. Thermal destruction at Energy-from-Waste facilities, hazardous waste incinerators, or medical waste incinerators, provides for the ultimate destruction of these unwanted drugs."

NOT for Hazardous Waste

Municipalities interested in participating in the program must obtain appropriate regulatory approvals in order to ensure that such wastes are not classified as hazardous waste from a federal, state, or local perspective. Each program would be subject to a due diligence review by Covanta Energy.

Municipalities interested in participating should contact Larry DellaVecchia, Director, Covanta Secure Services at 973-882-7310.

About Product Stewardship Institute (PSI)

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) is a national environmental institute with membership from 45 states, over 125 local governments, and more than 50 businesses, environmental groups, and organizations that establish cooperative agreements to reduce the health and environmental impacts from consumer products. PSI promotes producer responsibility in the context of shared responsibility for the lifecycle management of consumer products. For more information, visit

About Covanta Energy

Covanta Energy is an internationally recognized owner and operator of large-scale Energy-from-Waste and renewable energy projects and a recipient of the Energy Innovator Award from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Covanta's 45 Energy-from-Waste facilities provide communities with an environmentally sound solution to their solid waste disposal needs by using that municipal solid waste to generate clean, renewable energy. Annually, Covanta's modern Energy-from-Waste facilities safely and securely convert approximately 20 million tons of waste into more than 9 million megawatt hours of clean, renewable electricity and create more than 10 billion pounds of steam sold to a variety of industries. For more information, visit

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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