Beginning this month, more San Ramon residents are likely to visit the Dougherty Valley Police Substation, and for a reason unrelated to reporting crime.
The reason, needless to say, is one that will increase public safety: a pharmaceuticals collection program. It's the newest addition to various disposal programs already in place, including a sharps disposal program, a food scrap recycling program and battery disposal containers.
The already-installed pharmaceuticals collection bin, roughly the size of a mailbox, will allow residents to dispose of unwanted items in a convenient and lawful manner, according to San Ramon police Sgt. Craig Stevens.
"This is a very worthwhile program," he said. "For one, it's unlawful to dispose of pharmaceuticals by flushing or pouring down the drain. In providing this program we're doing something good for our community and we're also doing something good for our environment."
Ziploc bags will be available at the substation lobby and the police department will arrange for pickup by a licensed vendor once the bin is full and sealed.
The police department received approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration to move forward with the program in January. Then at the March 23 meeting, the City Council approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District, which will assist with transportation and disposal costs.
"Once everyone signs (the memorandum) we're good to go," Stevens said. He said the program will likely start running sometime this week.
The idea came about in early 2008, when the sanitary district began a pilot program in conjunction with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office and the Walnut Creek Police Department.
"We contacted Walnut Creek and talked about how successful it was, collecting 200 to 300 pounds of pharmaceuticals each month," Stevens said. "So we decided this was a program that we wanted to get involved in and started the process late last year."
San Ramon is one of the first cities in the area to adopt the program, said Councilmember David Hudson.
"This is long overdue," he said. "It's something you never think about but it's definitely needed."
No other sites for collection bins are currently planned because the Dougherty Valley Police Substation lobby is the only location with sufficient space, according to Stevens.
He added that the San Ramon Regional Hospital Foundation supports the program and has agreed to assist with public outreach.
The pharmaceuticals collections program comes shortly after the sharps disposal and food scraps recycling programs, both initiated in January.
The sharps disposal program enables residents to drop off medical needles, syringes and lancets at the San Ramon Regional Medical Center.
"Sharps can spread diseases or hurt someone, they're banned from disposal in regular garbage," said David Krueger, the city's Solid Waste and Recycling Program manager. "They are also a risk to people who collect garbage or work at landfills."
Also city-run, the food scrap recycling program encourages families to put food scraps and non-recycling paper products like cups and napkins in a green container already used for yard trimmings and other green waste.
"The food scraps program is brand new so it will take a while for people to get used to it, but we did some audits during the pilot and 30 percent of the green carts had food in it," Krueger said.
A program that has been around for much longer aims at collecting batteries, which can leak hazardous material. Retail establishments throughout the city including Whole Foods Market, Home Depot and Orchard Supply Hardware offer battery disposal containers. These containers are also available at several government locations, including city libraries.
In addition, the city hosts three free recycling drop-off events each year for electronics, appliances and reusable and recyclable materials. The next event will take place on April 17 and 18 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Dougherty Valley High School.
Such waste disposal efforts sprouted in 1989 when the state required every city and county to divert 25 percent of waste by 1995 and 50 percent by 2000, according to Krueger.
"That's what started a lot of thee programs throughout California," he said.