Safe Disposal of Unwanted Medicines
By properly disposing of unwanted medicines you help to keep others safe by ensuring that these medicines cannot be used again or accidentally ingested and cause harm.
How to Dispose of Unwanted Medicines
Pour all unwanted pills into a sealable plastic bag, but keep ointments and liquids in their original containers. Bring medications to a medicine take-back site. It is recommended that you call the site before bringing items for disposal.
PLEASE NOTE: Certain controlled prescriptions and substances are NOT accepted by most disposal sites. Please contact a local law enforcement agency to find out where to dispose of controlled substances.
FDA: Safe Disposal of Medicines
Medication Disposal: Questions & Answers
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Events
Safe Disposal Drop-off Sites
What kinds of medicines can I take back to a disposal site?
YES: Items Accepted
NO: Items NOT Accepted
- Prescription medications
- Over-the-counter medications
- Medication samples
- Vitamins & supplements
- Medicated ointments/lotions
- Liquid medications in glass or leakproof containers
- Needles and sharps
- Controlled prescriptions
- IV bags
- Bloody or infectious waste
- Personal care products
- Empty containers
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Aerosol cans
Disposal by Flushing
There are a few medications for which disposal by flushing is recommended. For a list of those medications and information about the environmental impact of disposal by flushing, see the Federal Drug Administration website at these links:
Medicines Recommended for Disposal by Flushing
Environmental Effects of Flushing Medications
Safe Disposal of Needles & “Sharps”
Used needles and other sharps are dangerous to people and pets if not disposed of safely: they can injure people and spread serious infections. Safe sharps disposal is important whether you are at home, at work, at school, traveling, or in other public places such as hotels, parks, and restaurants. Never place loose needles and other sharps (those that are not placed in a sharps disposal container) in household or public trash cans or recycling bins, and never flush them down the toilet. This puts trash and sewage workers, janitors, housekeepers, household members, and children at risk.
Safe Disposal of Needles and Sharps
Sharps Disposal Containers
Getting Rid of Used Sharps
Sharps Disposal Sites
Additional Resources & Information
California Department of Public Health: Medical Waste Management
Alameda County Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance