Covanta Energy Extends Program to Safely and Securely Destroy Prescription Drugs Collected at Take-Back Events

The Rx4Safety program aids in the proper destruction of potentially harmful prescription drugs

Dec 17, 2010, 11:17 ET from Covanta Energy Corporation

MORRISTOWN, N.J., Dec. 17, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Based on evidence of pollution in waterways and drinking water, as well as an increase in pharmaceutical drug abuse, Covanta Energy Corporation developed the Prescription for Safety Program (Rx4Safety) to safely dispose of medications collected at community-sponsored drug take-back programs, free of charge. The program was set to expire in 2010; however, based on the program's success and encouragement by its partners and clients, Covanta has elected to extend the program through the end of 2011.  

Since launching the program earlier this year, Covanta Energy-from-Waste (EfW) facilities have destroyed more than 30,000 pounds of unwanted medications from collections held by municipalities, community groups, and law enforcement agencies around the United States.

Take-back events, like the recent national Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) campaign and efforts by the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) provide a safe, confidential and proper way to dispose of unwanted medications, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, veterinary medications and nutritional supplements. Utilizing Covanta's Rx4Safety program enables groups holding take-back events to ensure environmentally proper disposal. Covanta Energy's EfW facilities provide safe, environmentally sound destruction that protects water resources and keeps unauthorized users safe from abuse.

When flushed down the drain, or disposed of in landfills, medications find their way into waterways and contaminate surface waters, having an adverse effect on our drinking water and the environment. A recent study conducted by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection shows that unwanted prescription drugs being tossed into landfills pose a threat to surface and groundwater supplies around the state. Test results of leachate at three Maine landfills showed concentrations of a wide range of pharmaceuticals. These drugs cannot be removed from water supplies at typical waste water treatment plants and the contaminated water can then have negative effects on aquatic organisms, fish, and other wildlife.

"Covanta was motivated to roll out the Rx4Safety program after we became aware of the impact pharmaceutical drugs were having on our water supplies and the increasing problem of abuse. We are thrilled to work with organizations that are leading the way on this issue such as The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) and the Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program (P2D2) and are happy to provide final, safe, and secure disposal of the collected drugs," said John G. Waffenschmidt, Covanta Energy Vice President, Environmental Science and Community Affairs. "Our Energy-from-Waste 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 and ensures that unwanted drugs are not available for abuse."

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) has taken a national leadership position in the need for increased product stewardship.  In the case of pharmaceuticals, PSI has been leading the dialogue on best practices, including proper destruction. They have been instrumental in education efforts to raise awareness about the issue and collaborated with Covanta on the development of the free disposal program. Thanks to PSI's efforts and those of countless other groups, a new federal law, signed on October 12 by President Barack Obama, will reduce costs and create more opportunities for collecting unused medicines from homes and long-term care facilities. The Safe and Secure Drug Disposal Act will give communities more options for providing secure take-back programs to prevent drug abuse, reduce the chances of accidental poisonings, and keep pharmaceutical drugs out of the environment.  

"It's extremely important that medications are disposed of properly to curtail abuse and the contamination of our environment," said Scott Cassel, Executive Director of the Product Stewardship Institute. "Covanta's offer to dispose of collected pharmaceuticals free of charge reduces costs for municipalities holding take-back programs. These collaborations are important steps in lowering the environmental and health risks associated with unwanted pharmaceuticals.  Thermal destruction at Energy-from-Waste facilities, hazardous waste incinerators, or medical waste incinerators, provides for the ultimate destruction of these drugs."

"The tireless effort of people like Paul Ritter of P2D2 has raised awareness and prompted communities to adopt proper disposal methods. Paul's commitment to getting the word out about the right way to handle unwanted drugs is remarkable. Whenever I speak with him, I'm inspired to do all I can in helping to get his message out," continued Waffenschmidt.

"It is an honor for the P2D2 Program to be able to work alongside so many great communities and organizations, such as Covanta Energy, to solve one of our nation's greatest tragedies," said Paul Ritter, founder of P2D2.  "The misuse and abuse of drugs in America is at an all time high. Water, our most precious resource, needs to be protected from possible contamination resulting from improper pharmaceutical disposal.  If it were not for dedicated leaders and Covanta, there would not be a viable disposal option for many communities.  P2D2 is committed to help communities around the globe develop sustainable solutions and establish disposal programs of their own."

In addition to properly managing the destruction of these unwanted drugs and protecting our clean water supply, collected drugs are used to create electricity. Covanta's Energy-from-Waste facilities reduce greenhouse gases and produce clean, renewable energy from municipal solid waste.

Municipalities interested in participating in Covanta's 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. For more information, please email

For more information on PSI visit, For P2D2 visit,

About Covanta

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 44 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 9 million megawatt hours of clean, renewable electricity and create more than 9 billion pounds of steam sold to a variety of industries. For more information, visit

SOURCE Covanta Energy Corporation