Keeping Pharmaceuticals Out of the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes Pharmaceutical Product Stewardship Initiative aims to safeguard communities in the Great Lakes region from drug abuse and poisonings and to protect water quality through the secure management of pharmaceutical waste. Funded by the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), the initiative will help increase awareness of proper methods of medicine disposal in the Great Lakes region. The issue is particularly important here because the Great Lakes hold most of the nation’s surface freshwater, and more than 20 percent of the world’s freshwater. The initiative is led by the University of Wisconsin Extension (UW Ext), with support from the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin (AROW), Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, and the Midwest Product Stewardship Council.

See an overview of state-wide pharmaceutical stewardship initiatives in the Great Lakes here.

Our work:

Education at the local, state, and federal levels

  • Pharmaceutical Waste Stewardship Summits. Click here for more information about the June 2013 Summit held in Milwaukee, WI.

  • "Myth vs. Reality” info sheet examining a producer responsibility approach to pharmaceutical stewardship.

  • Legislative model for pharmaceutical stewardship. (For more information, contact Vivian Fuhrman, PhD by email or at (617) 236-4771.

  • Briefing paper on the risks of improper pharmaceutical disposal and the role of an EPR approach. (Also summarizes existing take-back efforts in the Great Lakes region, as well as existing EPR programs in Europe and Canada.)

Coordination of a regional message on pharmaceutical take-back

  • Vision for the Great Lakes document: outlines key elements of pharmaceutical collection and disposal programs and has been endorsed by over 40 stakeholder groups in the region.

  • Go-To-Guide for Safe Drug Take-Back provides information for consumers, policy makers, government officials, and other stakeholders on the risks of improper pharmaceutical disposal, the status of pharmaceutical take-back initiatives across the country, and where and how to dispose of unwanted medicines.


Regional work groups to identify best practices for voluntary take-back initiatives, messaging on proper disposal, and policies/regulations

  • Stakeholder calls to solicit feedback on the proposed DEA rule regarding controlled substances, and submission of this feedback to the DEA.


In addition, PSI and the University of Wisconsin Extension developed a report for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, estimating that only 2% of unused household pharmaceuticals are safely collected via take-back programs in Wisconsin, despite the rapid growth of ongoing drug take-back programs in the state. The report evaluated current statewide sales of household pharmaceuticals, the magnitude of unused pharmaceuticals in the state, and current barriers to higher collection rates. Click here to view the full report.

For more information on how PSI is helping to advance pharmaceutical stewardship, visit our pharmaceuticals page.