HIBBING — Proper disposal of medications can benefit both the environment and the increasing abuse of prescription drugs.

In order to facilitate easier disposal of unused medication, St. Louis County, in partnership with the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District, is reminding residents that they can safely turn expired or unneeded medicine at multiple locations.

“It used to be that we wanted people to discard their medications properly to prevent environmental contamination and accidental poisonings,” said Mark St. Lawrence, environmental services director for St. Louis County, in a release. “Those are certainly still concerns, but the growing problem is prescription medications — especially opioid painkillers — being stolen and used by others. So we encourage people to get rid of their unused medicine at one of our safe and convenient locations.

Locations managed by St. Louis County include the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Offices in Hibbing and Virginia, Chisholm Police Department, Babbitt Police Department, Ely City Hall, Eveleth Police Department, Floodwood City Hall and Gilbert Police Department. All locations accept medications weekdays during regular office hours.

For John Strukel, St. Louis County Solid Waste Operations Supervisor, these sites are place for people to feel comfortable about disposing unused medication.

“You can still throw them in the garbage and they will get brought to the landfill — that’s a viable option — but for those who are uncomfortable with that idea, these drop off locations are easily accessible,” Strukel said.

In 2016, 394 pounds of medication was dropped off at the Hibbing site. That total is more than 100 pounds over the previous year.

Strukel explained that the increase in deposits was most likely due to a greater awareness of the issue.

“People have become more familiar with this process, and that is why we have seen this uptick,” he said.

All medication drop offs are confidential. Medicines should be left in original containers whenever possible and sealed in a clear plastic bag. The patient’s name can be crossed out.

The name of the medication should be written on the bag if it’s not identifiable from the container.

All medicine should be kept out of reach of children while being stored or transferred. Items not accepted include needles and syringes, thermometers and medications from businesses.

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