Don't Flush Those Pills! How To Properly Dispose Of Prescription Meds & Sharps

According to a report by CBS News, researchers found that almost 70% of Americans take a prescription medication. Around half of those people take two or more prescriptions. What many people don't realize is there are specific steps you need to take to properly dispose of unused prescription medication. If you decide not to take something or it expires, you aren't supposed to just throw them in the trashcan or flush them down the toilet. Medical waste services are available and here is the proper way to dispose of medications and medical waste.

Take-Back Program

One option for disposing of your prescription medication is going to a take-back event. You can call the trash company in your area to find out if there is one available. This is an event where the county holds a collection specifically for prescription medications.

In Your Trash

While you can't just throw your prescription bottle full of pills in the trashcan, you can still throw your pills away if you do it properly. To do this, you can follow these steps:

  1. Collect all of the prescription bottles in the house with pills you want to dispose of.
  2. Mix them all together in a disposable container such as an empty butter container or a sealable plastic bag.
  3. Add used coffee grounds, kitty litter, or another undesirable substance to the mixture and seal it.
  4. Remove the name labels from your prescription bottles or black them out with black, permanent marker.
  5. Throw everything in your trashcan.


Sharps are any medical devices that can puncture the skin. The most common sharps that people have around their home are needles for injecting insulin and auto injectors for injecting epinephrine when a deadly allergy strikes.

It is extremely dangerous to dispose of sharps recklessly. They can fall out of the trash and become hazardous to children and animals. Putting them in the trash also puts trash workers at risk. Used needles can spread infections such as HIV and Hepatitis. Disposal methods include:

  1. Drop box or collection site
  2. Mail-back program
  3. Syringe exchange program
  4. At-home destruction device

Hospitals and other medical facilities have drop boxes or supervised collection sites where you can take your used needles. Most services are free, but some may require a small fee. You can ask your doctor or a pharmacist for a list of locations in your area.

If you would rather use the mail-back program, you can order the sharps mail-back kits. The price depends on how many containers you buy. When you purchase containers, they're mailed to your home with shipping containers and pre-paid postage. All you have to do is fill up the container, put it in the box they send you, and stick on the address label to mail it back.

The syringe exchange program is a program designed to keep people from using dirty needles. Many street drug users use the syringe exchange program; however, any needle user can utilize it. It's especially helpful if your insurance doesn't cover the cost of your needles and you are having trouble affording them. All you have to do is bring in your used needles, and they will give you new ones. The syringe exchange program can be found in most major cities.

Many insurance companies will pay for a needle disposal system. It's a portable, battery operated device that effectively disintegrates your needles. The device uses rechargeable batteries and meets OSHA's Blood-Borne Pathogens Standard.

Properly disposing of you medications and medical waste is important for health and the environment. Disposing of pills properly keeps children from accidentally getting to it and drug abusers from finding it in your trash. Disposing of needles properly keeps your trash worker, family, and anyone else who may come in contact with them out of harm's way.