For years, we all got rid of old medication by just throwing it in the trash. Then it turned out that addicts went through trash looking for medications, and kids or animals could get hold of old drugs without even realizing they shouldn’t touch them. We were advised to flush old medication down the toilet instead. But then drugs started showing up in tap water which people were drinking and farms were using to irrigate the land where they grew food or fed livestock.
There’s no great solution
So what are we supposed to do? Unfortunately, no one has a really good answer. I’ve read that you may be able to find a pharmacy that will collect it and dispose of it. I called local pharmacies, however, and none had ever heard of that – several told me it was illegal for them to take back any medication for any reason. So you may want to try this, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t pan out.
I also tried contacting hospitals that have biohazard disposal facilities, but they said they only used them to dispose of their own medications.
The very best way to dispose of medication seems to be burning. But it needs to be done by waste disposal professionals. Just burning old meds along with the trash in your back yard barrel might release toxic fumes, for example. And in most areas, regulations mean you can’t burn trash at home anyway. So the real long term solution is for every area to offer waste disposal that involves burning trash instead of just stuffing it in a landfill. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you or I can do about that for the moment. So what are our other options?
Wrap it in plastic
One suggestion is to put your drugs in their original container, wrap that in a lot of plastic, and throw it away. Throwing them away in this manner means they’re less likely to biodegrade and leach toxins into the soil anytime soon. This method won’t prevent addicts from getting at them, but it may prevent kids and animals from getting into them
Make it gross
Another suggestion is to mix your medication up with something yucky, like the used kitty litter or old coffee grounds, put that in plastic and throw it away. This keeps it from degrading and leaching into the soil and reduces the chances that addicts, kids or animals will touch it.
Never, ever recycle
However you dispose of old medications and their packaging, don’t put it in your recycling bin unless your area specifically states that it’s okay to do that. If you can find someone locally who reuses old prescription bottles for charity, that gives you a way to get rid of the bottles. But recycling facilities rarely are prepared to deal with old medication or old bottles. In some areas, even when the prescription bottles say they’re recyclable, it’s actually illegal to recycle them.