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Teen Makes Safe Medication Disposal His Eagle Scout Project


When it came time to choose an Eagle Scout project, Kurt Rodriguez Whalen had two requirements – help the community and help him develop his leadership skills. In the end, the project he chose had an additional benefit – protecting the environment.

Kurt's Eagle Scout project is the Northwest Illinois Medication Disposal Program, a safe way for people to get rid of unwanted, unused and expired medications. The program began this summer with the placement of a MedReturn box in the lobby of the Freeport Police Department, 320 W. Exchange Street.

“Having medications around the home is a safety and health threat, and disposing of them in the trash can pollute the environment,” Kurt said. “So I identified a company in Wisconsin that builds strong, lockable boxes that are approved by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) that people can use to safely get rid of their unwanted medications.”

Anyone can dispose of waste medications through the program: Place the medication into a sealable plastic bag and drop it into the MedReturn box in the police department lobby. Prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements and pet medications are accepted in any form except liquid or aerosol cans. Needles and sharps, thermometers, aerosol cans and medicine from businesses or clinics will not be accepted.

When the disposal box is full, the police department will ensure that the contents are transported to and incinerated in a government-approved disposal facility, thereby avoiding landfill and groundwater contamination.

Kurt is coordinating the program with the help of the Stephenson County Sheriff's Department, the Freeport Police Department, the Freeport Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council, the Stephenson County Health Department, the Public Health Foundation of Northwest Illinois, and FHN. He is working with FHN and local law enforcement to also locate safe disposal boxes in communities across the area.

Kurt, who will be a sophomore at Freeport High School in the fall, has created a brochure to promote the medication disposal program, and has prepared a presentation to promote the program through community groups. He is also training a number of Boy Scout volunteers to give the presentation.

“I've had a lot of support from the Boy Scout community and my family,” Kurt says – including his twin brother, Seth, who is working toward his own Eagle Scout project – building a pergola outside the Freeport Police Department building to provide a sheltered spot for lunches and breaks.

For more information on the Northwest Illinois Medication Disposal Program, contact the Freeport Police Department at 815-235-8222 or the Stephenson County Sheriff's Department at 815-235-8290.