Walgreen’s Navigates National Waste Regulations: Q&A with Senior VP Rick Gates

Read the full story at Environmental Leader.

In early 2016, Walgreens launched a safe medication disposal program in the United States, installing kiosks at 600 stores where customers could deposit unwanted pharmaceuticals. That continuous national effort was a first, not just for one of the country’s largest drugstore chains, but for any retailer in the country.

“People talk about safety and opioid abuse, but the other side that’s important is the environmental impact,” said Rick Gates, senior vice president of pharmacy and healthcare at Walgreens. A pharmacist by training, Gates’ responsibilities include collaborating with partners across the industry on patient-centered solutions to deploy through Walgreens’ healthcare providers in their stores.

Walgreens’ partner for the safe medication disposal program, Stericycle Environmental Solutions, won a 2017 Environmental Leader Award for the pharmaceutical takeback kiosks and envelopes. One of the judges called the suite a great example of social responsibility, saying at the time, “[The] program is diverting a waste stream, reducing pollutants in waterways, and addressing a serious opioid abuse epidemic in the United States.”

Recently we caught up with Gates to learn about the start of the program, the regulatory challenges that had to be addressed along the way, and how Walgreens plans to expand accessibility in the future.

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