WV business looks to market medicine disposal product to Walmart - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV business looks to market medicine disposal product to Walmart

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Andy Knapp, director of Element, demonstrates the medicine disposal product. Andy Knapp, director of Element, demonstrates the medicine disposal product.

"Rattle, rattle, thump."

And just like that, liquid medication and pills shaken together with powder and water in a sealed container turns into a sludge that is safe to throw away in the trash.  

The powder and container were developed by Beckley-based businessman Christopher Vaught's business. Vaught started his business, Vaught Inc., in 2008 as a health care solutions company.

Although the product has mainly been sold to businesses, it now has the chance to make it to the consumer market by way of Walmart.

The goal of Vaught's business originally was to find health care solutions and if it was a good idea, he would turn it into a service line.

"And if it was a great solution, we would turn it into a business," Vaught said.

His company has more than 60 employees and four subsidiary businesses, including Element, which created the medicine disposal product.

"Hospice of West Virginia is a client and we asked a simple question of ‘what do you do with expired medicine?' The answer was typical," Vaught said. "If they did anything at all with them, they would flush them. We worked with them to develop a solution that would be environmentally responsible but also efficient and cost effective."

The business is based in Beckley and the medicine disposal product was developed and tested in West Virginia.

"It's a West Virginia product that provides a solution to a national problem," said Andy Knapp, director of Element. "Proper medicine disposal is a hot topic all across the nation. We would like to see it become a bigger topic in West Virginia." 

When looking at developing this product, Vaught said he and his team looked at several methods such as mail-back, which was limited by volume and didn't accept controlled substances and drug take-backs, which doesn't happen every day.

Vaught said his team later heard of the "kitty litter method," which uses litter, water and coffee grounds to get rid of medication.

"Whenever we looked at that, we said we felt we could find something that worked like it but better. We found a container like a milk container but better," he said. "We worked to design a bottle that was more substantial and worked with the chemical itself."

The powder Vaught's company developed has the same properties as cat litter, he explained.

"Basically what the chemical does is it disrupts medications like kitty litter but it breaks the medications down over time and destroys it," Vaught said. "I've seen examples of kitty litter where it sucks up the water and the medications are left."

People can toss their medication in the bottle, add the powder and water, seal the container, shake the bottle for 30-60 seconds and it dissolves the medication.

"It's awesome because you hear a change," said Daniel Keaton, Vaught Inc. director of business development, noting the "rattle, rattle, thump" noise the medication makes as it starts to break down.   

Vaught said the product was tested with Hospice and later was used by coalitions, sheriffs' departments, watershed associations, solid waste authorities and funeral homes.

As for the environmental effects, Vaught said he and his team approached the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to make sure they were developing a safe product.

"I would love to say it has no impact on the environment but that's not true. It still has to go to the landfill. Of all solutions out there, I feel this is the best one," Vaught said, noting the use of the product from watershed associations and solid waste authorities.

Vaught recently submitted this product to Walmart's Get on the Shelf program for a chance to expand to the consumer market.

People can vote once a day at https://getontheshelf.walmart.com/product/1cac/Element-MDS until Sept. 2.  If the product does well, a panel of judges will then look at public response and the use of the product to determine if it goes on to the next stage.

Vaught said Walmart hasn't said when the product would make it to the shelf if it passes.

"They did a similar program last year where they had 4,000 entries and three winners," Knapp said, acknowledging the odds.

So, what will they do if the product doesn't make it on the shelf?

"We're always interested in expanding our marketing opportunities," Vaught said. "There certainly are identified individual homes and anything we can do to help that. At this point, it's not part of our strategy.

"We are focusing more on groups and hospices but it will become an expanding part of what we're doing."

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