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EPA's Earth Day Challenge: Collect 1 Million Pills and 1 Million Pounds of E-Waste to Help Protect the Great Lakes

CHICAGO, April 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. EPA's Great Lakes National Program Manager and Regional Administrator Mary A. Gade, Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott, Chicago Environment Commissioner Suzanne Malec-McKenna and Lyman Welch of the Alliance for the Great Lakes today joined together at the John G. Shedd Aquarium to urge Chicagoans to participate in EPA's Great Lakes Earth Day Challenge. EPA's goal is to collect at least 1 million pounds of electronics or "e-waste" and 1 million pills during Earth Month to keep contaminants out of the Great Lakes.

"Last summer, we saw an outpouring of support from thousands of people in the Great Lakes area who were concerned about pollution," said Regional Administrator Gade. "This Earth Day Challenge is another way for all those people -- and many more just like them -- to show they care. One person can make a difference for the Great Lakes by recycling unwanted electronics and properly disposing of medicines. Doing this will help prevent contaminants from polluting the Great Lakes."

So far, more than 125 communities, organizations and businesses across the Great Lakes basin have stepped up and responded to the challenge by sponsoring collections. EPA is providing more than $500,000 in grants to help fund 26 collections in eight states. This includes last Saturday's collection at DeVry University and the upcoming collection on Saturday at Goose Island, which is co-sponsored by the City, Illinois EPA and the Alliance.

The public is encouraged to bring unused or expired prescription and non-prescription drugs, inhalers and mercury thermometers for free and proper disposal to the Chicago Household Chemicals and Computer Recycling facility at Goose Island at 1150 N. North Branch St.

"Protecting and preserving the Great Lakes and all our natural resources will take government agencies, non profit organizations and individuals all doing their part," said Commissioner Malec-McKenna. "The City of Chicago understands the seriousness of water quality and safety and we'll look to expand ways that Chicagoans can dispose of electronics and prescription drugs safely."

"The benefit of the Goose Island collection is two-fold. It gives Chicagoans a chance to do a little spring cleaning to get rid of unwanted medicines while helping to protect Lake Michigan, one of our greatest natural assets," said IEPA Director Scott. "Today, we're hoping people make a pledge to get out of the habit of flushing their unwanted medicines and in to the habit of doing the environmentally responsible thing by bringing their unused drugs to the collection."

The Great Lakes are an irreplaceable treasure. They are the largest source of fresh drinking water on earth and vital to commerce and recreation in the upper Midwest.

"Flushing unwanted medicines down toilets leads to potential contamination of the Great Lakes and drinking water supplies," said Mr. Welch, Water Quality Program manager for the Alliance. "Disposing of unused and expired medicines through collection programs is a responsible step everyone can take now to prevent water pollution at the source."

EPA and Earth911 have established a clearinghouse of collection events throughout the Great Lakes basin. It provides details about 23 collection events in the greater Chicago metropolitan area and northern Illinois. To find out about collection events, go to the Great Lakes Earth Day Challenge Web site

Also, anyone can go to EPA's blog and share ideas:

SOURCE U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5
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