The NoPILLS in waters! project


Keeping pharmaceuticals out of the water

The challenge

We excrete a staggering 70% of all the pharmaceutical substances we consume. Yet, the impact of pharmaceutical residues on our environment, particularly in water, is still poorly understood, and treatment measures can be very costly.

Specifically, in many areas treatment at hospitals can only filter up to 20% of the waste. This leaves an urgent need to treat the remaining 80%.

The project in brief

Building on the previous PILLS project, the noPILLS project widened the frame towards pharmaceuticals in sewage and an active change in consumer behaviour.

To reduce the amount of pharmaceutical products released into the environment, noPILLS carried out campaigns to raise the awareness of everyone involved in the consumption cycle including: doctors, pharmacists, consumers, and policymakers.

Project partners focused on:

  • Awareness raising
  • Demonstration tools, and
  • Impact assessment

The NoPILLS project’s aim was to reduce the pollution in waters from pharmaceutical residues. This was partly achieved by technical measures, but primarily by reducing the input of medical components in waste water, changing consumers’ behavior, sustainable disposal of unused medicine and technological innovations.

NoPILLS showed that the general public, patients and healthcare professionals are keen on reducing the environmental impact of pharmaceutical disposal into the environment.

The impact

NoPIILS showed that changing behaviour of consumers can contribute to the development and production of “environmental friendly pharmaceuticals”. Even if the pharmaceutical industry might be driven by its own economic and strategic choices, the results from the project strongly contributed to increasing the demand for green pharmacy in Europe.

The project also proved that communication aimed at changing behaviours can be successful and complementary to “end of the pipe” techniques which are more expensive. Additionally, NoPILLS showed that the general public, patients and healthcare professionals are keen on reducing the environmental impact of pharmaceutical disposal into the environment.

Importantly, project research revealed that a lack of information is a strong barrier to correct disposal. Because of this, the posters, leaflets, educational mini-books for children, exhibition materials and results of the various socio-scientific studies were valuable tools for other regions to inform and train citizens and practitioners. 

As an example, one of these campaigns took place in the German town of Dülmen. It focused on intelligent consumption of medicines and their proper disposal. It targeted 13 schools, all the pharmacists in the town, doctors, sports clubs, and other local stakeholders. At the end of the project, awareness in the town of the risks posed by pharmaceuticals in their water had increased by 22%, leading to behavioural change in which the percentage of people who correctly disposed of pharmaceuticals had increased from 34% to 54%.

Dülmen’s success has since encouraged other towns & cities in the region to follow suit. The city of Essen applied for national funding to replicate the campaign and several hospitals have asked the project’s lead partner to carry out information campaigns.

By the end of the project, NoPILLS successfully reduced amounts of pharmaceutical residues in the aquatic environment and improved policies by illustrating the consequences of pollution from pharmaceutical residues in the water.

13

schools targeted for a campaign in Dulmen, Germany

Increase in awareness of the risks posed by pharmaceuticals in their water in Dulmen, Germany

34-54%

increase in percentage of people who correctly disposed of pharmaceuticals in Dulmen, Germany

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