PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Thousand of Mainers did some serious spring cleaning this weekend, disposing of more than 27,000lbs of unwanted medications - the most ever collected during any collection in the state's history.
"I can't believe how many boxes, I mean hundreds and hundreds, we're probably up to 1500 boxes of medications, and each box is 20lbs, 30lbs, 40lbs," exclaimed Mike Wardrop, special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Prescription drug abuse is a problem, so we really need to rid these old, unwanted and expired medications from our households," he added.
Wardrop says collection events like this don't just help prevent drugs from getting into the hands of addicts, they also protect people from becoming the victim of crime.
"We wouldn't be successful but for the participation of everybody in the communities, all the police departments, all the sheriffs offices and just everybody coming together," said Wardrop. "Anything we can do to save one child, one child from being sick, an elder from being sick, and then the polluting of our environment. I mean a lot of places historically have flushed this into our environment, into our water stream."
The drugs, which filled four box trucks, we brought to Covanta Energy's waste-to-energy incinerator in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where they were disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.
"Covanta does offer a clean, environmentally friendly way to dispose of the waste," explained Ken Nydum, the plant's business manager.
Nydum says the plant's two boilers operate at roughly 2000 degrees, destroying most anything that is harmful. He says the plant also has a bag house which is able to capture any pollutants that are emitted during the incineration process.
The DEA plans on holding another Drug Take Back event in the fall, but Wardrop says people do not have to hold on to unwanted or expired medications in the meantime. He says there are more than 70 police agencies in Maine that have a permanent drop box, available for people to use during regular business hours. You can find one near you by calling your local law enforcement agency.