Overmedicated

By Misch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Too much medication goes straight from the factory to the trash or the drain – without making a stop in the human body where it is actually needed. Last year, 189 tonnes of medicine ended up in the Superdreckskëscht, probably much more in the residual waste. An unnecessary burden on nature and on all those who pay into the health insurance system. Something as simple as changing the packaging could help.

189 tonnes of medicines were disposed of at the Superdreckskëscht in Luxembourg last year – often in unopened boxes. Many had expired, others had not. But even unopened medicines that can still be taken have to be incinerated together with their blisters. No one knows exactly how many more tonnes are carelessly thrown into the bin or flushed down the toilet every year.

"The waste is enormous", says Jeff Barré, who is responsible for the health sector at Superdreckskëscht: "Calculated per capita, we collected around 290 grams of medicines last year, including the weight of the packaging." Yet 2021 was still a comparatively quiet year. In 2019, says Barré, each Luxembourger threw away an average of 312 grams of medication. These are mainly painkillers, antidepressants, eye drops and creams, which are separated from the packaging on the assembly line of the Superdreckskëscht, because only the paper can be recycled. In the future, a new section of the sewage treatment plant in Beggen will even specifically filter residues of antibiotics and medicines from the wastewater – a necessity that arises from the negligence of too many people. 

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