Antigonish pharmacy tackles waste with reusable glass vials

·3 min read
Miranda Teasdale, a pharmacist, holds a glass vial that people can use for their prescriptions. She says the pharmacy industry produces a lot of waste as many plastic containers aren't recycled.  (Submitted by Alicia Teasdale - image credit)
Miranda Teasdale, a pharmacist, holds a glass vial that people can use for their prescriptions. She says the pharmacy industry produces a lot of waste as many plastic containers aren't recycled. (Submitted by Alicia Teasdale - image credit)

When Alicia and Miranda Teasdale decided to move home from Alberta to Antigonish, N.S., they had one big priority: open a drug store that would make their community think differently about waste.

The sisters just launched the Teasdale Apothecary, which offers reusable glass vials for prescriptions. While they're being used in some pharmacies in other parts of Canada, the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia believes the Teasdale Apothecary is the first to try the system in Nova Scotia.

Miranda Teasdale, who is a pharmacist, said she can't believe the amount of waste pharmacies produce.

"Unfortunately, we are a huge contributor to plastic waste in the environment," she said. "Even though [plastic vials] are plastic and they say they're recyclable, a lot of the time they aren't recycled."

Patients at the pharmacy have an option. They can use plastic vials from an environmentally–friendly Canadian company, or opt into the bottle program. They pay a deposit of $2 or $3 depending on the size of the jar.

How the vial program works

When they finish their prescription, they're given instructions on how to clean it.

"When they return it to the pharmacy, we use a really high medical grade sanitizer on the bottle, to make sure it's completely safe to reuse," said Teasdale. "We'll exchange it with them, so they can continue to get their prescriptions in the glass bottles."

The sisters hope the glass vials become a new standard in the industry.

Teasdale said over time, their expenses should go down because the pharmacy won't have to keep restocking plastic containers.

"The thing with glass, it can be infinite as long as it's handled properly and cleaned properly, which is really impactful when you look at prescriptions that people take every month and they're on, say, five or six or more medications that they're getting refilled monthly over the course of several years, that can add up to a lot of waste diverted from the landfill," she said,.

Submitted by Alicia Teasdale
Submitted by Alicia Teasdale

The Apothecary is the result of a dream between the sisters.

When the pandemic began, Alicia Teasdale was in Edmonton and working as the director of a sexual assault centre. As lockdowns dragged on, the sisters became homesick, and decided to speed up their long-term plan to move home.

Alicia Teasdale pitched her idea to open the drug store with the environmentally–friendly mandate. Just one year later, their father discovered a vacant building listed for sale in Antigonish, and the Teasdales made the leap.

"We're here a lot sooner than we planned but it worked out in our favour," said Alicia.

Cutting down on carbon footprints

While the shop is filled with typical products such as shampoos and household cleaners, all of them have refillable options.

"Folks can bring in their own containers as long as they're clean and dry, and we'll tare them on a scale," said Alicia. "They can fill the containers up with whatever they want to purchase, and then they only pay by weight."

She also uses the example of pregnancy and ovulation tests, which often come with significant plastic packaging.

"We chose a Canadian brand that they package theirs in groups of strips and they're plastic free," said Alicia.

'A small step in the right direction'

She hopes people in her hometown will adopt the idea that small changes to their everyday lifestyle will add up when it comes to helping the planet.

"We can make really easy swaps, and we can phase out some of these products that have become so popular and so disposable," she said.

Miranda Teasdale said they're learning as they go. Eventually, she wants the pharmacy to be paper-free.

"I think it's a small step in the right direction when it comes to health care and pharmacy waste," she said.

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