An economic assessment of household unwanted medicine disposal programs

Sofia Katherina Vielma Delano, Purdue University


There has been increasing concern about the environmental impact of pharmaceutical accumulations in surface and groundwater over the last two decades due to their improper disposal. Improper storage of these pharmaceuticals at home also poses a public health concern given its association with drug abuse and accidental poisoning. Several states in the U.S., including those bordering the Great Lakes, have implemented medicine take-back programs to help mitigate problems associated with unused and unwanted pharmaceuticals kept in households. Although positive benefits for society and the environment have been reported for these programs, the perceived monetary value has not been estimated. This thesis assessed the determinants of household participation in a medicine take-back program and estimated the value of a pharmaceutical collection program through a contingent valuation procedure.^ An ordered logit model was estimated to assess the factors that can influence participation in a medicine take-back program. A double hurdle model was then used to estimate the mean willingness to pay (WTP) per prescription as well as per visit by current users of the program and potential users in the Great Lakes region.^ The dataset used for the study consisted of a sample of 2,031 respondents from a survey that solicited information about unwanted and unused medicine disposal practices and willingness to participate in a medicine take-back program. The survey was administered online in the summer of 2015 to residents of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.^ The results suggest that young adults with an annual household income above the national median of $51,759 dollars and environmentally conscious individuals are more likely to participate in medicine take-back programs. Regarding participation, 60% of respondents are willing to participate in a collection program, while 40% are willing to pay to participate in a collection program. The unconditional mean WTP is $0.53 per prescription and $1.03 per visit, while the mean willingness to pay for those with a positive willingness to pay is $1.03 per prescription and $2.33 per visit. The total annual value for such programs in the Great Lakes region is estimated to be between $20.75 and $41.30 million under the WTP per prescription estimations, and $19.70 - $39.25 using the WTP per visit estimations. This information helps to better inform program providers, researchers, policymakers, advocates and other interested parties on the value of these collection programs.^




Kwamena K. Quagrainie, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Environmental economics|Environmental studies

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