Household Medicine/Pharmaceutical Disposal

Households and the General Public:

Many state and local law enforcement agencies, communities, and organizations have established take-back events, mail-back, and other collection programs to collect old, expired, or simply unwanted prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals from households.

Medicine take-back programs for disposal are a good way to remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from the home and reduce the chance that others may accidentally take the medicine. Contact your city or county governments' household trash and recycling service to see if there is a medicine take-back program in your community and learn about any special rules regarding which medicines can be taken back. You can also talk to your pharmacist to see if he or she knows of other medicine disposal programs in your area.

Organizers of these household pharmaceutical take-back programs have asked for the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recommendation on how to dispose of and destroy collected household pharmaceuticals.

Incineration Facilities - Regulations, Laws, and Recommendations from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

EPA's recommendation that household pharmaceuticals collected by these programs be incinerated. EPA's preference is that they be sent to a permitted hazardous waste combustor, but when that is not feasible, at a minimum they should be sent to a large or small municipal waste combustor. This guidance only applies to the collection and management of household pharmaceuticals and does not apply to pharmaceuticals that are generated at non-households, such as healthcare facilities.

Pharmaceuticals that are unwanted (e.g. expired or unused) by consumers (households) are not regulated as hazardous wastes and are generally considered municipal solid wastes.

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