Hazardous Waste

Unused drugs, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, kept in medicine cabinets, tossed in the garbage, or flushed down the toilet or drain can pose serious threats to human and environmental health. Proper management of these drugs reduces avoidable poisoning of both children and adults; prevents intentional misuse of unwanted prescription drugs; and protects water quality and fish.

Scientific research continues to indicate that drugs can harm the environment. In one national study, scientists analyzed streams for 95 different organic wastewater contaminants, including pharmaceutical compounds. One or more of these wastewater contaminants appeared in 80 percent of the streams. Wastewater treatment plants and septic systems usually do not treat or only partially treat pharmaceuticals, so chemical compounds from these drugs pass through treatment plants or septic systems to rivers or groundwater.

Disposal recommendations for household pharmaceuticals

While unused medicines can be hazardous, they are not normally accepted at Household Hazardous Waste collections.
Do not dispose of pharmaceuticals down a drain or toilet or burn them with household waste. This allows them to get into the environment, impacting fish, wildlife, or even you.
Instead, choose one of these options:

Option 1

Take waste pharmaceuticals to a designated drug take-back collection site.

Before 2014, only law enforcement could legally collect expired and unwanted drugs. Now pharmacies, hospitals, and other medical facilities are allowed to accept them as well.

Option 2

If no Drug Take-Back sites or events are available, dispose of waste pharmaceuticals in the trash. Follow these basic guidelines:

  1. Take waste pharmaceuticals out of their original containers and mix with an undesirable substance such as used cat litter, or coffee grounds.
  2. Place this mixture in a plastic bag or other sealable container, such as an empty plastic container.
  3. Place the sealed container with the mixture in the trash as close to garbage pickup time as possible, to prevent theft and misuse.


If the suggested locations are not available, please contact Marie Diodati,  503-229-5446 so we can update our database.