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National Nonprofit Day: Students Making a Difference

P2D2 – The Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program

Baylee

Name: Baylee Ritter

Age: 21

Hometown: Pontiac, Illinois

School: DePaul University

CH: What does your organization do?

BR: The Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program (P2D2) is a collaborative effort between students, communities, local pharmacies, police departments, hospitals, city officials, and others. The purpose of the program is to educate the public about the misuse and abuse of pharmaceuticals and the harm they cause to the environment. Due to current prescription and nonprescription drug disposal practices worldwide, most people throw their expired or unwanted medication in the garbage or flush it down the toilet. This causes extreme problems for the environment. Scientists with the United States Geological Society conducted a study of over 130 rivers, streams, and other waterways in the U.S. and found medication in over 80% of those tested. The mission of P2D2 is to provide communities with a proper method of medication disposal that effectively reduces the misuse and abuse of pharmaceuticals and ensures the quality of our water and wildlife for future generations.

CH: What inspired you to create this organization?

BR: After my grandma passed from cancer in 2007, my parents were left with a lot of the medicine she had been taking right before she died. The medicine sat in our cabinet for about a month before my parents decided it was time to get rid of it. After doing some research, we read on the Internet that the number-one solution for disposing of unwanted or unused medication was to flush it down the toilet. My dad, being a science teacher, didn’t feel flushing medicine down the toilet was safe for the environment—and it turned out he was right.

We talked to the water treatment plant in our town and found out that most medicine gets past water treatment plants and into our drinking water. Furthermore, the medicine that gets past the treatment plants gets into the waterways, causing problems such as drug resistance and hormone and fertility problems for things living on or in the water. The EPA at the time didn’t have a safe disposal method available, so my family decided that needed to change.

We converted an old post office mailbox into a drop-off box and placed it in the local pharmacy we were working with. The idea was that individuals could take their unused and unwanted prescription and nonprescription drugs to participating pharmacies, no questions asked. Pharmacists would then take the pharmaceuticals and place them into secure bins. When the bins filled up, pharmacists would send them off to be incinerated. The company that incinerates the pharmaceuticals creates energy that is used to power homes and businesses.

After the initial launch of the program in my hometown, the program went statewide, then national, and now international. In 2012, the program was named the number-one world-class environmental education program in the United States by the United Nations Environmental Programme and Volvo.

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CH: How do you balance life as a college student and nonprofit owner?

BR: When I was growing up, I was heavily involved in the day-to-day work of P2D2. Every summer, my family and I would travel around the country to talk with the people who were starting our program in their state or community. I loved touring the country and visiting communities who were looking to solve local environmental problems using our program. The older I got, however, the more I started working on the administrative side of the program. As a 12 year old, I loved doing the field work and being involved in the implementation of the boxes in each of the communities. In high school, I started speaking nationally and internationally about youth engagement and decided to grow the program even further.

When I started college, I knew I couldn’t travel as much, so I decided to work on the educational piece of the program and start planning events for the next generation of environmental enthusiasts. My father and I loved the idea of hosting various P2D2 summits for high schoolers to attend. We wanted students to learn about the opioid crisis facing the United States today and how they could solve the prescription pill epidemic locally. We also wanted to give them the sense of agency that P2D2 was their program, too. My work in college has primarily consisted of educating the next round of young go-getters about how to make a difference.

P2D2 will always be my heart and soul, but I knew that I wanted to pass the program on once I got to college, and mentor students who were just like me growing up. Doing that has allowed me to balance my love for the program and my excitement for the other things that I am working on in my college career.

CH: How has your organization impacted your own life?

BR: P2D2 has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Because of P2D2, I’ve seen so many communities around the globe and learned about the problems they are faced with every day. P2D2 has inspired me to fight for the things I’m most passionate about and never lose sight of the things that are the most important. I’ve learned how to never take “no” for an answer and found a way to give back to a community that has given me so much. I’ve traveled all over the world and (hopefully) inspired people like me to act on whatever they’re passionate about. I’ve grown my personal understanding of the world around me and realized the profound importance of using your voice and platform for good.

CH: What do you hope to achieve with your organization in the future?

BR: The only thing that I’ve ever hoped for P2D2 is that students will always be able to use it to make a difference for their communities. Touring different schools and organizations growing up, I met so many young kids who were looking to make a difference for their community. They had the passion to change the world but needed direction. That is when P2D2 stepped in—it gave them a platform to use their passion.

CH: How can other students get involved in your organization?

BR: One of the best ways that students can get involved in P2D2 is starting a program in their community. It’s free! Visit our website to learn how to become a member of the P2D2 team. All tools needed will be provided by our team.

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