Disposing of Expired or Unused Medications

March 17, 2011 by  

Guidelines for Safe Disposal of Expired or Unused Medications

Now that you have separated out all those expired medications from your medicine cabinets, what do you do with them?  Do you just pitch them in the trash can or down the toilet? Do you have to take them some place special, because that is a pain and no one wants to have to do that.


There are guidelines that are recommended by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for safe disposal of medication. See the FDA guidelines for safe disposal of medicine

* Check the bottle itself and see if there are guidelines there as to how to dispose of the medication. If it isn’t on
the bottle, you can check the enclosed information sheet if you still have it or you can check the web site.

* Most medications can be thrown in the trash. Take them out of their original containers. Put them into a plastic bag with something make them undesirable to animals and small children such as coffee grounds or kitty litter.  Seal the bag and throw it in the trash can (where animals or children can not get to it)

medicines in coffee

Be sure before you throw away a prescription bottle, to either scratch out your personal information or take off the label and shred the label.

prescription label

* There are some medications that should still be flushed down the sink or toilet according to the FDA. They are mostly medications that could cause real harm to children or animals if found and consumed.  The FDA is aware that there is concern over trace amounts of medications being found in the water. They feel this is more from people who excrete medications and that the medications going down the toilet are still the safest alternative.

See drugs that the FDA recommends Flushing down the sink or toilet here.

There are also some communities that have a “take back” program.  You can check within your own community for such a program. They have safe methods for disposing of the medications for you.

Be sure to use precaution when disposing of your medications!

Check out my other posts from this series:
Part 1 – Organize Your Medicine Cabinet
Part 2 – Organizing Your Medicine Cabinet – Expired Meds
Part 4 – Be Prepared for Illness

Your mission is to Organize YOUR medicine cabinets! I want to see them! Be sure to link them up to my Organizing Mission Link party!

Organizing Mission Monday

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8 Responses to “Disposing of Expired or Unused Medications”
  1. Bonni says:

    Hi!! I found you from Twitter and love your blog!! I’m following! I’ll be back often!

  2. Denise says:

    great tips! I have a bag of expired meds sitting in my garage right now waiting to go to the dump/med recycle center (25 mins away)….it’s been sitting there for four months!!! Great to know of some safe alternatives. thanks for posting!

  3. Heather S says:

    And if, like I did, you have an insulin-dependent diabetic in your family, or someone else who uses syringes; please be careful to use a sharps container and when it is full take it to your local Shopper’s Drug Mart, or other location that disposes of them properly. It doesn’t matter how old the syringes are, they are still dangerous. I found a syringe of my husband’s five years after he died, when I was purging stuff in preparation to move and it still needed to be properly disposed of.

  4. Sandy says:

    Good point Heather. Different states have different laws about disposal. The sharps container is the best and if you are getting supplies they wouldn’t be hard to get. But if for some reason you don’t have one available, you can use an empty laundry soap bottle, pop bottle or milk carton (at least in Ohio).

  5. Sandy says:

    Thanks Bonni!

  6. Sandy says:

    I bet you’ll get them taken care of soon. Thanks Denise.

  7. You can take empty Rx bottles (after label is removed) to your pharmacy so it can be reused.

    They also make great holders for yarn or embroidery needles.

    I have even made toys with them. Fill with beans or rice & cover with colored paper, then clear packing tape. Great toy for toddlers!

  8. Sandy says:

    Thanks Laura… I didn’t know you could take the empty bottles back to a pharmacy so they can be reused. I can see the larger RX bottles being a rattle/toy for a toddler…. as long as they are wide enough around so they can’t get them in their mouth. Rule many pediatricians use is that it has to be larger around than a toilet paper roll.

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