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How-To: Safely Dispose of Prescription Meds

No matter how diligent I am about trying to keep my bathroom shelves clutter-free, they still seem to eventually get overrun by prescription medications that have a pill or two left in the bottom of the bottle. It's definitely a no-no to keep prescription medications sitting around your home, especially if they're past their expiration date.

To find out the right and wrong ways to rid your home of this potentially dangerous clutter, check out my tips when you


  1. Take all out-of-date prescription meds off your shelves, but not so fast — if you’re considering tossing them down your drain, think again. Medications such as Zoloft have been found in lakes and rivers and are inhibiting algae growth and aquatic health. Trace amounts of antibiotics and estrogen are also showing up in your drinking water. To prevent further contamination, don't flush your medication down the sink or toilet.
  2. Ask your pharmacist if he or she can take back medications. Some pharmacies, such as Elephant Pharmacy and Kaiser Permanente, are taking back medications.
  3. Call your city or state to ask about drug disposal programs, such as this one in Maine..
  4. If you must put your medications in the trash, keep them in their original childproof and watertight containers. Leave the label on, but scratch out your name, your doctor’s name, and your address to protect your privacy. Add some water or vinegar to pills to render them useless. For liquids, add some flour or kitty litter. You can conceal the bottles by tying them up in plastic bags before throwing them out.
  5. The bottom line is that there's no perfect way to dispose of prescription medications. The EPA is currently working on a more comprehensive drug recycling program, but for now, try to keep your meds out of the water and waste stream, and organize on the local, city, or state level to demand a better solution.


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