Responsible Medication Disposal
The best way to dispose of unused and expired medications is to turn them in to an authorized disposal site. Drug Take Back Days provide community members with opportunities to learn about medication safety and turn in unused and expired medications.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know what to dispose of?
Everyone should clean out their medicine cabinet once a year. You should dispose of:
- Expired drugs, including prescription, over-the-counter, and herbals
- Prescription medicines you do not use anymore
My medicines are still good, can’t I donate them?
Unfortunately, no, once a medication has left the pharmacy, there is no control over storage of the medication. Therefore, health care professionals cannot take the medication back to be given to another person.
Why should I dispose of my old or unused medicines?
There are three main reasons:
- Your safety. If you accidentally take the wrong medicine, you could be poisoned or have harmful side effects. Elderly, children, and pets are particularly susceptible to this.
- The safety of others. Theft of medicines is becoming more common. This includes theft by persons in your home who you know, such as a child’s friend. This can lead to inappropriate use or identity theft.
- The environment. If drugs are flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink, they enter the sewer system. Medicines are NOT removed from the water by sewage treatment facilities or septic tank systems. The drugs enter the soil, surface water and ground water. This causes growth and reproductive problems in fish and other aquatic wildlife. DO NOT FLUSH your old medicines or DO NOT POUR your old medicines down the sink!
What is the safest way to dispose of my medicines for the environment?
Taking medications to a household waste drop off location for incineration is the safest for the environment. Call your local police department or community hazardous waste hauler to ask about these programs. If you are unable to participate in a drop-off day, you can dispose of the medicines in the trash. But to be friendly to the environment, and to protect your privacy, follow these directions.
- Add water to the medicine container to dissolve the tablets or dilute the liquid.
- Empty medicine & water from its container into a disposable & sealable bag.
- Mix in a handful of undesirable solid substance such as kitty litter, coffee grounds, top soil, or sawdust.
- Remove & destroy ALL identifying personal information from the prescription label of the original medicine container.
- Place bag in trash on trash pick-up day. Recycle the plastic or glass container.
If you have more questions, talk to your pharmacist. As the medicine experts, pharmacists are available to guide you on how to properly dispose of your unused medicines.
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