You’ve taken the steps needed to spring clean your medicine cabinet and have identified some products that may have changed in color, some that may have an odor, and others that are simply unused or expired, and no longer needed. While the best way to dispose of most types of unused, unwanted, or expired medicines is to promptly bring them to the nearest kiosk site or take back event in your area, this isn’t always a possibility. So, you may be asking: what should I do if I can’t make it to a drug take back location?
While there are options available for in-home disposal, you must first check that any of these options you consider complies with your local requirements. It is essential that you must never simply throw an unused product directly into your household trash, toilet, or sink without first checking and following local requirements. Taking the proper precautions and understanding the “do’s and don’ts” of in-home disposal can help to ensure the health and safety of your family, pets, and even your community waste management professionals.
DO check and comply with local requirements regarding proper in-home disposal options.
DO read your medication’s label and/or accompanying medication guides for any specific disposal instructions. Some products may have different disposal requirements that need to be considered.
DON’T immediately flush your medicine down the toilet or sink without first checking whether or not it’s on the FDA Flush List. While some may think of flushing as an easy and quick disposal method, the FDA only recommends flushing for a very small number of medications. Under NO circumstance should any item NOT on the FDA Flush List be disposed of by flushing and it is only recommended if other disposal options are not readily available.
DO mix liquid medicines or pills with an unpalatable substance. Note that tablets and capsules should not be crushed. Dirt, coffee grounds, and kitty litter are all easy-to-obtain options that can make the medicine unappealing to pets, children, or others that may inadvertently come into contact with them. Only if permitted by local requirements, this mixture can be placed in a container such as a sealed plastic bag and thrown into your household trash.
DON’T throw loose sharps directly into the trash. Sharps should be placed in a designated sharps disposal container and disposed of according to local requirements. Visit the FDA website or SafeNeedleDisposal.org for more information on safely disposing of sharps.
DO remove or make illegible all personal information from the prescription labels on your empty medicine bottles and packaging before recycling or disposing of them.
DON’T throw your inhalers or aerosol products into the trash, unless specifically instructed to do so in their accompanying instructions or labelling. Contact your local trash and recycling facility for guidance on how to dispose of them.
Following the do’s and don’ts of disposing of unwanted, unused, and expired medicines at home can help to ensure that you’re making the safest possible choice for your household and following the regulations in your community, in the event that you can’t make it to a kiosk site or take back event.
Is there a kiosk site near you? Check out our easy-to-use Kiosk Locator, featuring locations in all 50 states.
Due to possible disruptions associated with COVID-19, kiosk access to and operating hours at the listed kiosk locations may be impacted. If you have questions about a kiosk site, including current kiosk access, what can be disposed of, and hours of operation, contact the kiosk site directly. If you are not able to visit a kiosk and have immediate disposal needs visit the FDA website for additional guidance and be sure to comply with all applicable federal, state, and local legal requirements.
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