World Water Day: Proper Medicine Disposal [transcript][audio]

Guest: Toni Riley

Presenter: Tabetha Moreto

Guest Bio:  Toni Riley is the Project Manager of the Return Unwanted Medicines Initiative better known as the RUM Project. She is  a pharmacist and has for many years practised as a community pharmacist and a consultant pharmacist, providing medication review services to the community and in Aged Care. The RUM Project is a is a Commonwealth funded program, providing all communities pharmacies in Australia a method of environmentally safe disposal of unwanted and expired medicines returned to the pharmacy by the consumer. This program has been in operation continuously since 1998 and today incinerate in excess of 700,000kg of unwanted medicines annually.

Segment Overview: In this segment, Toni Riley of the RUM Project comes back to the program to discuss about the dangers of dumping medicines down the drain or toilet and how it can end up in waterways and cause extreme damage. She also talks about what can we do in order to keep our waters clean.


Tabetha Moreto: Hello everyone, welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host for today, Tabetha Moreto. Our guest today is Toni Riley, the Project Manager of the Return Unwanted Medicines Initiative or better known as the RUM Project. Today is World Water Day and it’s time we focus our intention on the importance of water and how to reduce pollution. She’s going to talk about how disposing medicines by pouring them down the toilet or drain, ending up in our waterways is extremely damaging. This is her second appearance on the show. Without further ado, welcome back to the show Toni. It’s very nice to have you again.

Toni Riley: Thank you. It’s great to be back.

T: Yes, thank you. Toni please tell the audience especially those who are not able to listen to your first interview, tell them who you are and something about your background.

R: Thank you. I’m a pharmacist and in this particular role I am the national project manager of the Return and Disposal of Unwanted Medicines. It’s a project that’s Commonwealth funded for community pharmacies so pharmacies out there in suburban shopping centers and shopping strips who can provide a service to the community with safe disposal of unwanted medicine. Each pharmacy can bring back any unwanted medicine and by what I mean with any medicines, they don’t have to have bought them at that pharmacy for this safe disposal and those medicine are ultimately incinerated.

T: Fantastic. Tell us about World Water Day. Why is this event very special?

R: So my perspective as a project manager of Return of Unwanted Medicines project, it’s really important to get across to everybody and it’s not only consumers. Health professionals can lead this charge as well, that the appropriate disposal of unwanted medicine is really, really important. Any medicines and we know in Australia that a significant number of people are not aware of safe medicines disposal and putting their unwanted medicine in the rubbish bin or down the drain. Most medicines ultimately end up in landfill which ultimately tapping into our water. This been to research done in Australia and a lot more research than overseas, but we already have small quantities of medicine in our water so we really need to minimise it, so everybody needs to think about how they can rid of any unwanted medicines back to the pharmacies is the best way.

T: I see. What can we do in order to keep our waters clean?

R: From my medicines perspective, the only thing you can do is take any unwanted medicines straight back to you community pharmacy and ask them to dispose of them in their RUM bin. Because that way, we keep them out of the water.

T: That’s a good to hear. Can you tell us why are people throwing their medicines in the toilet rather than giving them back to the pharmacies?

R: Our understanding from the survey we did, it was mainly people felt it was a safe way to get rid of medicines that of course they haven’t taught about the next step of where those medicines go when they go down the toilet or down the drain or into the rubbish bin. All were very, very surprised to realize that those things ultimately ended up in our waterways. Our sewerage systems are not designed to remove significant amount of drugs out of them so we need to keep them out and get a safe way and put them in the and take to pharmacy and get it in the RUM project.

T: That’s good to know that with this research now people can understand that throwing medicine down the drain or down the toilet rather can be very dangerous.

R: Absolutely.

T: Can you tell us, why is this particular topic relevant to health professionals?

R: We also know from an earlier case of research that a lot of health professionals don’t actually know about the method or haven’t really taught about the safe method and disposal of unwanted medicine. It’s important that when they’re talking to their patients, discuss how to dispose and not just assume that they know that the patients know the appropriate thing to do. We know that very few Australians knew about our project, we’ve got a big campaign and hopefully manage to get a lot more people knowing about it. But it is important that health professionals can be part of this as well, they can talk about it with their patients.

T: That’s good to know that health professionals now will be able to understand this particular topic.

R: I mean any health professionals if they want any further information can always access it from our website which is or they can contact their office and we can send them out some brochures if that’s what they want because we have plenty of information onhand.

T: That’s fantastic. Toni, before we go, what is your main takeaway message to all of our listeners out there? What would you like to tell them?

R: My main takeaway message is don’t put medicines in the rubbish bin, don’t put medicines down the drain or the toilet. Take them back to your community pharmacies where they’ll dispose them in an environmentally appropriate manner and keep that out of the waterway.

T: Absolutely, I agree with you on that. That was a fantastic message because water is the most important substance on this earth and we should not be polluting it by dumping our medicines down the drains.

R: So true. So precious.

T: Lastly for those who want to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

R: They can contact us through the website which is or they can phone us on our landline which is in Melbourne 03 9583 8699.

T: Fantastic. Thank you so much Toni for coming on the show again.

R: Thank you very much.

T: That was Toni Riley, Project Manager of the RUM project. We just been talking about World Water Day and hoe dumping medicine in waterways can be so damaging and dangerous. If you like this interview, transcripts and archive are available at We are on all social media platforms, don’t forget to follow, like and subscribe. Show us some by subscribing to our HPR YouTube channel. We’re also available for download on SoundCloud and iTunes. I’m Tabetha Moreto and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio.

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