Since the start of this year, more than 1,660 pounds of unused prescription medications have been left in boxes at local police departments, and can’t be stolen and abused or sold, police said.

They also won’t be flushed down toilets, meaning less pollution of local water supplies.

Those are the key reasons the Johnson County Recycling District and local law enforcement agencies have created a program that allows residents to safely dispose of prescription drugs. Since 2014, more than 5 tons of medications have been collected through the program.

Johnson County resident used to have few options to dispose of old or unwanted medications.

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The Drug Enforcement Agency and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office would host one-day collections a couple times each year in locations around the county, but officials say it was clear that the county had a need for a medication disposal system.

“We recognized the need was far greater than that,” Johnson County Recycling District Director Jessie Biggerman said.

Beginning in 2014, the recycling district coordinated with local law enforcement agencies to set up five locations where people can dispose of medications freely and anonymously. People cannot drop off needles and syringes.

If not disposed of properly, prescription drugs can cause environmental and health problems, she said.

Whether they are flushed down the toilet or sent to the landfill, prescription drugs can get into the water system, Biggerman said.

Disposing of unneeded medications also prevents them from being abused, Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said.

It’s becoming more common to see reports of family members stealing prescription drugs, such as pain medications, he said.

“One of the big problems we have is people stealing narcotics from loved ones,” Cox said.

The recycling district received grants from Indiana American Water and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant for two of the boxes and spent $1,600 for an additional two boxes and signage. The sheriff’s office purchased its own box.

The boxes are emptied and taken to the Covanta Indianapolis incinerator, which accepts them free of charge. All of the prescription drugs have to be transported by law enforcement officers under federal law since they are classified as controlled substances, Biggerman said.

If you go

In Johnson County, residents can freely and anonymously drop off prescription medications at five locations:

Johnson County Jail, 1091 Hospital Road, Franklin

Franklin City Police Department, 2810 N. Morton St., Franklin

Greenwood Police Department, 186 Surina Way, Greenwood

Edinburgh Police Department, 200 S. Main St., Edinburgh

Whiteland Town Hall, 549 Main St., Whiteland

By the numbers

Johnson County law enforcement agencies have been collecting prescription medication through anonymous drop boxes since 2014. Here is a look at what has been collected:

2014: 1.98 tons

2015: 2.1 tons

2016: .83 tons (through August)