Dispose of unused and expired medications by tossing into the trash???

I’m doing some decluttering. The medicine cabinet is next on my list. I asked my pharmacy if they take old expired pills. She said they’re not allowed to by law. She said some group (can’t remember who) has a take back event twice a year but I just missed it in April. So what is recommended is to take them out of the bottle, toss them in my regular kitchen garbage bag, and dispose of the bottles separately. Seriously? Sounds great for the groundwater! She said that’s why they don’t want you to flush them anymore. I’m not any kind of environmentalist, but this can’t be good.

Whaa? When I was clearing out my stepfather’s medicine cabinet after he passed away, the local pharmacy was glad to take the old drugs. Where are you, that this would be a problem?

Here in the US there’s a twice yearly take back (not BUY back, which would be interesting); the rest of the year one’s encouraged to dispose of their expired/unwanted drugs at the local cop shop. Call ahead to be sure they do so, they’ll typically have a separate container or slot well marked for such.
The pharmacies here throw it in the trash or advise their customers to do so, I don’t get it either. Probably to do w/ liability.

Houston, TX

FDA guidelines

Purple Clogs, perhaps you could call your doctor or local hospital to see if they have any ideas where your can take you old prescriptions?

In Washington state, many pharmacies now have a box similar to your corner mailbox where you can put your unwanted prescriptions in but no one but the person who has the key can get them out. I wish they’d advertise this feature more to lessen the number of drugs winding up one way or the other in the ecosystem.

Those drug take-back programs usually take them to a central location, where they burn them along with other medical waste.

If you don’t want to do that, you can dissolve the meds in a small amount of water and then (if you have a cat) mix that with used kitty litter, or coffee grounds if you don’t, to keep trash pickers from being able to identify any pills.

Odd they won’t take them. It Britain it is pretty mandatory to dispose of drugs through pharmacies ---- although naturally they have no way of finding out what people do with old stuff; just that there’s no point in hanging on to expired drugs, and putting them into the trash or water disposal is obviously stupid .
Pharmacies are obliged to accept back unwanted medicines from patients. The pharmacy will, if required by NHS England or the waste contractor, sort them into solids (including ampoules and vials), liquids and aerosols, and the NHS England’s Area Team will make arrangements for a waste contractor to collect the medicines from pharmacies at regular intervals. Additional segregation is also required under the Hazardous Waste Regulations.
In Germany since 2009 they have stopped the old pharmacy system and gone to official recommendations of disposal into household trash and thence incineration. However since Germans have a trash system that would outrage the average American or Briton as being complicated, or against freedom, or needing thought, or something, stuff goes into one of the six or more coloured sacks that separates rubbish — on the other hand, perhaps half of Germans pour it down the sink…

I’m not sure about the dangers of putting them in garbage heaps where others may retrieve them as this American site warns, Take Back Your Meds, because never in my life have I seen anyone scrabbling through general household waste for stuff they are going to put in their body.

It’s not just concern that somebody will pick them out of the garbage and consume them. (Because honestly, anyone who’d do that has a lot of other serious problems.) The bigger concern is the drugs ending up in the water supply and people unknowingly drinking water than contains pharmaceutical compounds.


In addition to above suggestions, you could also try looking up the Home Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection for your city to see if and where they will take prescription medications.

http://rxdrugdropbox.org/ might also be an option.

Edit: I just realized that you posted your location. Looks like Houston HHW recommends that you dispose of it in the trash mixed with kitty litter or coffee grounds

What are you supposed to do if you don’t have cats and don’t drink coffee?

Buy ground coffee at the dollar store. Save remaining coffee for future drug disposal/deodorizing needs.

That’s not very different from the refuse/recycling scheme where I live (southern England) - except for a little more sorting of the recyclables.

Well, I’m old enough to remember when some of the more futile celebrities we unfortunately produce held a Daily Mail Outrage campaign against the indignities of filling their own wheely-bins ( also a German invention ) and propelling them to the gate instead of having burly deferential dustbinmen hoisting those old metal things up on their shoulders and staggering to the cart, whilst tipping their honest cloth caps and saying things like ‘Gor bless you. Mum’ in return for a friendly nod of recognition, thankful for the honest toil.
You can’t expect people of that stature to welcome sinister EU plots for recycling.

It’s hard enough forcing the cat to take her own medicine; I’m not going to be bothered to force her to finish mine too.

ETA: Oh, wait, they probably didn’t mean “mixed with kitty litter” in that way.

Or buy kitty litter, and put the remainder in your trunk for when you need additional traction in the winter.

…and kitty staggers out of the Vicodin enriched litter box in a daze…

Take them to the local animal shelter. They’ll be happy to see you.

This discussion quite amazed me as I though everyone just threw them into the household trash. Household trash is full of stuff which is toxic in varying degrees–the garbage dumps need to have liners and other mechanisms to contain it.

They do have liners, but liners leak, which is why the authorities are trying to weed out toxic stuff before it winds up in the landfill. This is why you’re not supposed to throw out batteries or electronics; they are the main source of heavy metals in landfill waste.