Give a hoot, don’t pollute: how MPharm students are helping the environment through a waste medicines project

Emily Cope, Georgina Groves, Shonali Lakhani and Sonam Kotecha are MPharm Pharmacy students undertaking a dissertation project on raising awareness of the environmental and financial cost of not disposing of medicines properly. Here, they talk about what it’s been like to run the project…

We are a close-knit group of four dissertation students implementing a public health campaign on medicines and the environment that was originally designed by the social responsibility group within our Division.

PosterCurrently, just 22% of people in the UK return unwanted medicines to a pharmacy, with 99% of drugs in landfill remaining in the environment indefinitely. Around £300 million is wasted on unwanted medication by the NHS each year.

We aim to inform the public about how to safely dispose of waste medicines and highlight the impact unwanted medication has on the environment and biodiversity. Read on for a breakdown of our journey so far…

The beginning

Our dissertation supervisor, Andrew Mawdsley, introduced us to the medicines and the environment project in September.

The first task we focused on was familiarising ourselves with and enhancing the pre-existing campaign website and social media sites. We booked and began to advertise our upcoming campus events.

In October, the social responsibility group also handed over the task of completing the preparation of campaign materials to help get to a total number of 10,000 stickered bags and 100 promotional packs prepared.

Project preparationIn early November, we got carried away with the creative flow of the project and created custom-made T-shirts to wear for our campus events. Our project supervisor was very envious and was pleased that we were having fun with the project.


We then reverted back to the task in hand of designing and piloting a survey for healthcare students.

On the campaign trail

Campaign promotion at Stopford Building
Campaign promotion at Stopford Building

Feeling enthusiastic on home turf at Stopford Building, we held our first (of three) interactive campus events on 7 November. We actively promoted the campaign and sign-posted participants to our various online resources to learn more.

Overall, it was a great success, with 157 people completing our survey!

Barry the bear

One of our brainwaves was to employ Barry the Bear to be our campaign mascot. This photo was one of our highest reaching posts on our social media sites – clearly our supporters really warmed to Barry!

Later in the month, we ventured out into unfamiliar territory by setting up camp in Jean McFarlane Building to establish the medicine disposal views of nursing and midwifery students.

Our vibrant stand and enthusiasm certainly brightened up this typical rainy Mancunian day.

To boost the visibility of our website, we added a ‘Learn More’ button to our Facebook page and encouraged our followers to browse our website and pledge their support. We continued to be active on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

Deal of the week

We concluded our campus campaigning week in the University’s dental hospital. The T-shirts proved to be a lifesaver because this location couldn’t facilitate our usual setup. A celebratory boomerang had to be done!

Next steps

At the start of December, it was time to get the first year pharmacy students on board. We briefed them on our campaign to date and explained their crucial involvement in the campaign going forward.

They will be let loose on the public during their community pharmacy placements in January 2018 to survey the public regarding medicine disposal practices and to raise awareness.

So far, we have really enjoyed building the website and social media sites, and raising awareness among other students at the Faculty. The feedback we have received has been really positive and it is evident that our surveys have been thought-provoking.

We hope that our social media support snowballs and that, ultimately, our efforts contribute to more environmentally-friendly medicine disposal behaviour among healthcare students and their future patients.Marketing materialsBig thanks to:

  • our extremely supportive supervisor and founder of the project, Andrew Mawdsley;
  • all of the University staff and students who took part in our survey;
  • the cohort of community pharmacies across greater Manchester who collectively create the external platform for this campaign;
  • the first year Pharmacy students who are collecting additional data on our behalf.

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