Medication Disposal

Special Collection

Instead, find out if there is a special collection for unused and expired drugs in your area by contacting your local household hazardous waste collection coordinator and reviewing other takeback options if you do not have a locally sponsored collection.

 

Commonly collected products include:

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medication
  • Medication samples
  • Medicated ointments and lotions
  • Vitamins
  • Inhalers
  • Veterinary medications

 

Dispose of unwanted medicines in the trash if a collection program is not available, unless the medication is a chemotherapy agent. Chemotherapy agents should be returned to the clinic that dispensed them for proper disposal. Keep pharmaceuticals in their original container since the labels may contain safety information, the container is chemically compatible, and the caps are typically watertight and child-proof. Scratch out, cover with tape, or use permanent marker to make personal information unreadable.

 

Preparing Drugs for Disposal

To reduce the opportunity for misuse, be sure to properly prepare the drugs for disposal:

  • For solid medications (such as pills or capsules): add a small amount of water to at least partially dissolve them. Seal the container with duct or other opaque tape.
  • For liquid medications: add enough table salt, flour, charcoal, or nontoxic powdered spice, such as turmeric or mustard to make a pungent, unsightly mixture that discourages anyone from eating it. Seal the container with duct or other opaque tape to prevent leaks and breakage.
  • For blister packs: wrap blister packages containing pills in multiple layers of duct or other opaque tape.

 

Unused ampules, vials, and IV bags should not be opened (other than to scratch out the patient’s name). Wrap the item with duct or other opaque tape to minimize breakage, and then place in an opaque plastic container (such as an empty yogurt or margarine tub).

 

Double bag the contained drugs in a closable plastic bag, or put in another container with the lid taped closed, and put it in the trash. This helps prevent immediate identification that the package contains drugs and helps contain any leaks if the container breaks during the disposal process, e.g., when plastic garbage bags tear, the trash can tips over, etc. Avoid putting drugs into any material or food that might be attractive to pets or wildlife.

Dispose of patches safely: Fold the sticky sides together and place them in a sturdy container, preferably with a child-resistant cap. Be sure the opening is big enough for a folded patch to go in but small enough that a child’s hand cannot. A washed-out bottle with a child-resistant cap may work well. You could also ask your pharmacist for a large empty bottle or prescription vial with a child-resistant cap. Or look in the drugstore for “sharps containers” that diabetics use for their insulin needles. Some of these can even be mailed back to the container company for free when they are ready for disposal (visit www.bd.com/sharps for one example). Be sure to discard frequently. Whatever container you use to dispose of patches, remove it from your home frequently. The more used patches available to someone, the more seriously they can be harmed.