How to safely dispose of used, expired, and unwanted medication
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Protect your family and the environment by properly disposing of used, expired, and unwanted medication

Written by Tri State Disposal. Posted in Residential Waste

Different Medicines in Tablets — Chicago, IL — Tri-State Disposal

The unfortunate reality about medication is that consumers do not know how to properly dispose of it once it has expired, or no longer have a need for it anymore. People often forget about existing drugs in their home, while others opt to flush or throw away unwanted drugs. When pills are thrown into the trash it can lead to the accidental poisoning of pets, children, and potential drug abusers. To protect the environment and our communities, Tri-State Disposal wants you to be aware of the potential disposal complications and educate you on the proper disposal methods of unwanted medication.


When medication is flushed down the toilet or in the sink it poses an environmental threat because it can get into our water systems. Various pharmaceutical-related chemicals have been found in waterways across the country and in our drinking water. These chemicals have been traced back to drugs such as antibiotics, antidepressants, steroids, seizure medications, painkillers, and more. These chemicals not only have the potential to harm humans, but also threaten marine ecosystems. Studies have shown that these prescription chemical byproducts can cause changes in the behavior, reproduction, and growth of many species, specifically frogs and fish.


Before tossing medication into the trash, Tri-State Disposal, in compliance with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, strongly urges Illinois residents to find a designated drug take-back location. They can consult the Drug Take-Back Participants in Illinois list for a drop-off location or check with local police stations to get rid of unwanted and expired medications. Residents living outside of Illinois can consult the national drug take-back program website for the closest drug take-back site within their state. Drug stores like Walgreens provide Medication Disposal Kiosks in their stores. You can search for a kiosk near you through the Walgreens store locator by selecting Filters > Pharmacy > Medication Disposal Kiosk. Be aware that most medications, vitamins, ointments, liquids, and lotions are accepted, while needles, inhalers, hydrogen peroxide, and illegal drugs are not accepted in the kiosks. Not all Walgreens pharmacies offer a safe medication disposal kiosk, but the stores that do not offer Medication Disposal Kiosks offer DisposeRx® packets. They are available upon request in the pharmacy.

DisposeRx® is an environmentally friendly, at-home medication disposal for unused medications.  DisposeRx® packets contain solidifying materials that provide a safe solution for the disposal of unused or expired medications. When water and the DisposeRx® powder are added to drugs in the prescription vial the drugs are dissolved and then chemically and physically sequestered into a viscous polymer gel made from materials approved by the FDA. The vial can then be safely placed in the trash. For more information, visit


If a drug take-back program is not available in your area, as a last resort you can dispose of medication at home. Almost all medicines, except those on the FDA flush list, can be thrown into your household trash. These include prescription and over the counter (OTC) drugs in the form of a pill, liquid, drop, patch, or creams.

Follow these steps:

  1. Remove the drugs from their original containers and mix them with something undesirable, such as used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. This makes the medicine less appealing to children and pets and unrecognizable to someone who might intentionally go through the trash looking for drugs.
  2. Put the mixture in something you can close (a resealable zipper storage bag, empty can, or another container) to prevent the drug from leaking or spilling out.
  3. Throw the container in the garbage.
  4. Scratch out all your personal information on the empty medicine packaging to protect your identity and privacy. Throw the packaging away.

For more information, check out SingleCare’s Health Education article at:

By making more mindful waste disposal decisions medications are managed in a socially and environmentally conscious manner. Households and communities throughout Tri-State Disposal’s service area and the country can highly benefit from reduced contamination and safer neighborhoods. Contact us if you have questions about proper medication disposal, or any other items you need to dispose of, but are not sure if it is accepted in your residential curbside waste collection program.

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