During your spring clean, don’t forget the medicine cabinet!

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It’s nearly time to start emptying those cupboards and doing that trip to the charity store that you’ve been meaning to do for months but just ‘never got around to it’ according to contributing editor Bianca Russom.

The all-important spring clean is nearly upon us, and it’s important to not only cleanse your house, but also to de-clutter your mind and feel productive. However, it’s likely when you’re tidying you forget to check one important place: The medicine cabinet.

Ah yes, whether it is in the bathroom, or in a box under the kitchen sink, the trusty medicine cabinet needs to be cleaned out too.

Medicines, creams, vitamins and minerals all have expiry or best before dates. I’m sure when you feel that headache coming on, you don’t check the expiry on that packet of paracetamol that never seems to run out, you just swallow that tablet and get on with your life.

However, expired, unused and unwanted medications around the house are an accident waiting to happen. Children and pets could find them, you might take a medicine which has expired and get sick, or even accidently use someone else’s medicines.

It’s important you manage your medicine cabinet at home. Chances are you will have some leftover antibiotics from that last chest infection, or a packet of cough lozenges which tasted horrible and you never used again.

Go through your medicine cabinet (and your first aid kit for that matter) and check the expiry dates of each of the items. You will likely find some products you don’t use anymore and some empty containers you couldn’t be bothered to put in the bin at the time. Sort these into categories of keeping and discarding.

But wait! Don’t just throw them all in the bin! These medicines are harmful to our environment and need to be disposed of carefully!

Any completely empty medicine boxes, tubes, jars or bottles can be disposed of in the bin. Be sure to black out any personal information, such as your name on the prescription label with a permanent marker.

If there are any tablets, cream or liquids left in items which have expired or are no longer wanted, these need to be disposed of at your local community pharmacy. Pharmacies have secured bins, known as RUM bins, which are filled with medicines and sent off via a courier to be incinerated. Put these items in a bag (no sharps though!) and return them to your local pharmacy for safe disposal.

Don’t forget to check other places around your house where medicines might be lurking, such as in your fridge, laundry, bathroom, bedroom, handbag and in the car.

When you’re cleaning up, you might also find some needles/sharps or other chemicals (cleaning products, soaps, face washes) which you no longer want. These also have special disposal methods.

Sharps/needles/lancets/syringes need to be disposed of in an approved sharps container. If you regularly use sharps for a medical condition (eg: Type 1 Diabetes), approved sharps containers can be purchased at pharmacies. You can also dispose of sharps at selected pharmacies, medical centres and hospitals.

Chemicals such as some cleaning products may require special disposal, such as through council chemical collection. Check the label for specific disposal instructions.

Face washes, soaps, creams, gels and similar personal care products can be disposed of in the RUM bin with your unused medicines. This also keeps the chemicals in these products out of our environment.

Pet medicines can also be disposed of in the RUM bin at a pharmacy.

Keeping yourself healthy and your house clean does not have to be at the expense of our environment. We can all do our bit to ensure these household chemicals don’t cause more harm than good.

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