How to Dispose of Unused Medicines

704 7th Avenue W, Durand, WI 54736
How to Dispose of Unused Medicines
Rates of prescription drug abuse in the United States are increasing, as are the number of accidental poisonings
and overdoses due to these drugs. In addition, many Americans do not know how to properly dispose
of their unused medicines, often flushing them down the toilet, a potential environmental hazard.
Most people throw their unused medicines in
the garbage or flush them down the toilet; but
there is a problem with disposing of medication this way. These medicinal compounds
filter into the groundwater and end up in our
lakes and streams. The US Geological Survey studied water from 139 streams in 30
states and found that 80% contained traces
of pharmaceuticals. The main way drug residues enter water systems is by people taking
medicines and then naturally passing them
through their bodies.
Pepin County & Pierce County provides a free
disposal of unwanted medications during the
Clean Sweep event usually held in the spring. For
more information contact the Pepin County Recycling/Solid Waste Office at 715-672-5709.
The Pepin County Sheriffs Department will accept unused medicine for disposal at their facility any time of the day or week in
the dispatch center with the exception of sharp syringes.
Guidelines for Drug Disposal
FDA and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy developed federal guidelines that are summarized here:
Follow any specific disposal instructions on the prescription drug labeling or patient information that accompanies the
medicine. Do not flush medicines down the sink or toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.
If no disposal instructions are given on the prescription drug labeling and no take-back program is available in your
area, throw the drugs in the household trash following these steps.
1. Remove them from their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used
coffee grounds or kitty litter (this makes the drug less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable
to people who may intentionally go through the trash seeking drugs).
2. Place the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the drug from leaking or
breaking out of a garbage bag.
* Never burn pharmaceuticals or personal care products in a burn barrel. Uncontrolled burning can create dioxins and
other air pollutants.
* Do not put sharps in the trash! Syringes, lancets and other sharp medical items should be taken to a sharps
collection station.
* Before throwing out a medicine container, scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label to make it
unreadable. This will help protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.
* Do not give your medicine to friends. Doctors prescribe medicines based on a person's specific symptoms and
medical history. A medicine that works for you could be dangerous for someone else.
* When in doubt about proper disposal, talk to your pharmacist.