Personal action 2

You CAN make a difference, and even save lives. These winners of the 2012 Volvo Adventure – held annually in Gothenburg, Sweden – are inspiring examples of how young people can take environmental problems into their own hands and, in an astonishingly short period, change lives for the better. Each winner offers simple solutions to universal problems and all are eminently replicable. How did they do it? Could YOU do it too? Read on…

Prescription drugs in the USA

© K. Eng

The USA’s P2D2 is a student-led organization that educates the public about the dangers of improper disposal of pharmaceutical drugs and initiates authorized disposal sites. Jordyn Schara, one of the originators, told TUNZA how a simple idea grew into a nationwide environmental campaign.

‘I’m from a small farming community in Wisconsin. Three years ago, when I was 14, two things startled me: a teenage boy in my community died from an overdose, and I also discovered that many prescription drugs – antibiotics, acne medication, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones – are flushed down the lavatory or buried in landfill, only to enter the water supply, harming humans and wildlife alike.

‘It’s a global problem. In the USA, prescription drugs contaminate the drinking water of at least 40 million people, yet there is no standard for proper disposal or legislation to back it up. I decided to start a collection programme, but when I contacted the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to find out how, they told me it wasn’t their priority.

’However, during the course of my research, I found that science teacher Paul Ritter, from Pontiac, Illinois, had addressed the problem and his students ran collection events. We joined forces, and P2D2 (Prescription Pill & Drug Disposal) was born. Through public events and the web, word spread, and the programme has now reached 21 states, and rising.

’Pharmaceutical collection differs according to the situation in each community. Generally, young people present a plan to the city council and call for support from the community, the police, pharmacies and hospitals. We spread the word with flyers and posters, T-shirts, and as much media coverage as we can get. In my town, a permanent locked collection box was installed at the police station for people to drop drugs off, no questions asked. These are then incinerated – the safest method of disposal – either by certified companies or onsite. And in Illinois, energy from the incineration process helps power homes and buildings.

’We’re not only spreading the word: students are also drafting legislation and submitting it for consideration. In Illinois, for example, House Bill 2056 (the P2D2 Bill) – which was written by civil and government students and makes it easier for police departments to pay for the programme – has become law.’

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This post is also available in: French, Russian, Spanish