Do you have unused and expired medications and personal care products, like skin and body care items, that you would like to get rid of?

Disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products is becoming a complex environmental issue. Research has shown that these compounds remain in water even after treatment, although the potential health effects to humans or aquatic organisms exposed to the low levels of these chemicals in water is still being studied. The safety and health of the environment is directly affected by the disposal method used, so it is important that we all be responsible when disposing of these products.

Learn how to safely dispose of these items so you
“Don’t Drug Your Drain!”

Flushing medicine down the toilet or pouring unused liquid medications down the drain may have been acceptable and even encouraged in the past, but today we are discovering that these are not desirable disposal methods.

Modern wastewater treatment plants simply are not designed to remove pharmaceutical compounds from water during treatment. And if your home uses a septic system, the chemicals you flush or pour down the drain can leach into your local groundwater. But there are safe ways to get rid of your unwanted medications and personal care products.

Drug Take-Back Events

The safest way to dispose of medications is through an organized collection event. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has established the “National Take-Back Initiative” to encourage communities to sponsor bi-annual medication disposal events. For information on where and when events are scheduled, visit the DEA's website and click on the “Got Drugs?” icon.

Disposal in Trash

Throwing medications in the trash can be dangerous since children and pets can find and accidentally consume them. If you have no other options and must dispose of medications or personal care products in the trash, take precautions to help ensure that the products are not appealing to people or animals.

Follow these steps to dispose of medications in household trash:

  1. Use a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid as your disposal vessel. A plastic soda bottle (for small quantities) or a milk jug (for larger quantities) works well. A sealable plastic bag will also work.
  2. Solidify liquids by mixing them with cat litter, sawdust, or flour.
  3. Solid medications can be crushed or dissolved in liquid and then mixed with cat litter or sawdust to make them unpalatable.
  4. Seal the container by securing the lid and placing tape around the lid.
  5. Place the container in your household trash shortly before the trash pick-up time.

Return to a Local Pharmacy or Doctor’s Office

Some pharmacies offer “clean out your medicine cabinet” drives where customers are encouraged to drop off expired or unused medications and over-the-counter products for disposal. Check with your local pharmacy for options, but remember that pharmacies are not required to accept unused medications. Likewise, doctors’ offices may be willing to accept these types of products for disposal, but are also not required to do so.