How to Recycle Unwanted and Expired Medications
While medications are not recyclable, responsible medication disposal is crucial for human and environmental health.
The easiest, and often safest, way to dispose of expired or unwanted mediation is through drug take-back or mail-back programs through pharmacies, government agencies and community groups, which will dispose of medications properly. Find a local take-back or mail-back program using our recycling locator.
If take-back programs are not an option, most medications can be disposed of in your household trash. SmaRxt Disposal recommends following these steps:
- Pour medication into a sealable plastic bag. If the medication is a solid (pill, liquid capsule, etc.), add water to dissolve it.
- Add kitty litter, sawdust or coffee grounds (or any material that mixes with the medication and makes it less appealing for pets and children to eat) to the plastic bag.
- Seal the plastic bag and put it in the trash.
- Remove and destroy all identifying personal information on the prescription label from all medication containers before recycling them or throwing them away.
Responsible medication disposal has changed over the years, so it’s important to follow any disposal instructions on the medication package, which will have the most current recommendations. If there aren’t any, follow the advice above.
Frequent Medication Recycling Questions
With that said, flushing is actually recommended in a few rare cases. Some drugs are fatal when ingested by others and you must dispose of them quickly, before they can cause harm. Sometimes, flushing these meds down the drain is the quickest option. The FDA discusses this topic and provides a list of medications that should be flushed.
- How Medicine Makes the Environment Sick: Wondering why it’s so important to get rid of drugs the right way? This article looks at the effects pharmaceuticals have on the environment.
- Recovered from an Injury? Learn How to Recycle Old Medical Gear: Find out what to do with your old crutches, boots and other gear left over from past injuries.
- How to Dispose of Unused Medicines: The FDA’s guide to getting rid of medications.