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Energy-from-Waste site to be honored Wednesday

Drugs and clean energy aren’t usually thought of together, but an effort to help people get rid of their prescription medications safely has meant generating electricity at the state Materials Recovery Facility in Agawam.

Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan and three other district attorneys will be recognized Wednesday by Covanta Energy, which operates 45 “Energy-from-Waste” facilities worldwide.

More than 7 tons of drugs, have been collected in the Northwestern District, consisting of Hampshire and Franklin counties and the town of Athol.

This has been accomplished through National Prescription Drug Days as well as the permanent drug drop-off boxes the DA helped establish last February in 16 area police stations. Those include boxes in Greenfield, Athol, Erving, Deerfield, Hadley, Montague, Orange and Sunderland, where residents can drop off their unwanted drugs year-round.

Sullivan has said the boxes will help keep medications out of the hands of children and out of landfills and the water supply. Getting unneeded medications out of homes and properly disposed of is an urgent public health and environmental issue, he said.

For children as young as 12, prescription medications are the drug of choice for abuse, Sullivan said. One in seven children 12 and over have used medications solely for the purpose of getting high, he said.

The collection boxes also reduce the environmental impact caused by medications being dumped into landfills or flushed and potentially contaminating streams and rivers, Sullivan said.

According to information provided by the district attorney’s office, about 80 percent of American streams contain small amounts of antibiotics, and marine life has shown adverse effects from medicine in the water.

Removing unneeded medications from the homes of senior citizens can help to prevent accidental overdoses or other medication errors, Sullivan said.

Covanta incinerates the drugs, free of charge, converting them, along with other waste, into electricity. According to Covanta, some 20 million tons of waste are converted into renewable electricity every year — enough to power 1 million homes.

Wednesday’s ceremony will be for Covanta to mark the milestone of destroying 1 million pounds of unwanted prescription medications.

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