Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal

Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal

Preferred Handling Option: Don’t Flush!

The age-old advice of flushing pharmaceuticals down the toilet is now considered to be the least desirable of all alternatives. For many years any households, institutions, and businesses have gotten into the habit of flushing waste pharmaceuticals down the toilet or pouring them down the drain because it is convenient, low cost and appears to be the simplest way to prevent unintended use or other diversion. However, wastewater treatment plants and septic systems are generally not designed to treat pharmaceutical waste. So don’t flush your waste drugs.

Recommended Options or Alternatives:

  1. National Take-Back Initiative – The Drug Enforcement Administration has coordinated a collaborative effort with the state and local law enforcement agencies to remove potentially dangerous controlled substances from our nation’s medicine cabinets. The National Take-Back Day provides an opportunity for the public to surrender expired, unwanted, or unused pharmaceutical controlled substances and other medications for destruction. The last successful Take-Back Day occurred on September 25, 2010.
  2. Reduce pharmaceutical waste whenever possible such as only buy as much as can reasonably be used before the expiration date.
  3. Dispose of the remainder properly and whenever possible take your unused pharmaceuticals to a pharmaceutical collection program or household hazardous waste collection event.
  4. Dispose of your unused pharmaceuticals in the trash. Especially when there is a risk of accidental poisoning, overdose or diversion, it is better to dispose of household pharmaceuticals than to hang onto them. When placing unused pharmaceuticals in the trash, be sure to do the following:
  • Remove or mark over all labels that identify the materials as pharmaceuticals or that could provide personal information about you, including prescription information that someone could try to refill;
  • Render them unattractive to children and thieves by dissolving them in a small amount of water or alcohol, or by grinding them up and mixing them with coffee grounds or kitty litter; and
  • Put them in a second container or small plastic bag and hide them in your trash.
  • Never burn pharmaceuticals or personal care products in a burn barrel. Uncontrolled burning can create dioxins and other air pollutants.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call Roger Descoteaux at the Merrimack Wastewater Treatment Facility at 420-1624 or 883-8196.