Unwanted Medications

Proper Disposal of Unwanted Medications,
Sharps, and Mercury

There are FREE COLLECTION SITES for unwanted medications in Franklin County, Massachusetts.

What are "unwanted medications"?

  • Expired medication
  • Drugs that didn’t work for you
  • Drugs that are no longer used
  • Unknown tablets and capsules
  • Medicine from deceased family members

Not down the drain!
Almost three billion drug prescriptions will be dispensed this year. A significant portion of these drugs will never be used and will require disposal. Getting rid of unwanted prescription or over-the-counter medications has historically meant flushing them down the toilet or drain. This is no longer the best advice, however. Water treatment facilities and septic systems are not designed to remove medications and many of the other chemicals found in personal care products and so they enter water supplies. Recent studies by the United States Geological Survey have found antibiotics, hormones, pain relievers, and other medications in waterways throughout the United States. The long-term impact of medication ending up in our rivers, lakes, and even our drinking water, is unclear. However, studies suggest that the release of antibiotics into the environment may encourage the development of drug-resistant germs. Hormones from medicines and birth control pills are suspected to have reproductive side effects in fish.

Please do not dispose of unused medications down the drain or toilet.

Safely store all medicine!
Unsafe storage of medications presents a danger to children, guests, and pets that could accidentally ingest the drugs. Go through all your medicines (prescription and nonprescription) at least once a year. Check the expiration dates and look for medicine that is discolored, dried out, crumbling, or shows other signs of being degraded. Look for leftover medicines that you no longer need. After identifying the medicines you want to keep, store them in a convenient, but cool, dark, and dry location. (The bathroom cabinet is not a good storage place for most medicines, due to heat and humidity.) Always keep medicine in its original container.

Child-resistant caps should be used if children live in your home or visit. Store all medicines out of sight and reach of children—in a locked cabinet or one with safety latches on it. A majority of medicine bottles used by seniors do not have child-resistant closures. As many as 20% of child poisonings involve a grandparent’s medication. Do not leave children unattended where they have access to medicine bottles.

Put unwanted medicines in a safe place where you won’t confuse them with currently used medication and where others can’t get to them. Store them in their original container with the label intact. Never give medicines to another individual—it is dangerous! Do not open unwanted ampoules, vials, or IV bags.

Needles hurt!
Never discard loose sharps in the trash or recycling bin, or leave needles and syringes where someone can be injured. Do not flush needles, syringes, or lancets down the toilet. Improper disposal of needles, lancets, and syringes (“sharps”) injures hundreds of recycling, sanitation, and custodial workers each year. Proper disposal of sharps is important to prevent injury and disease transmission from needle-sticks.

Disposal of sharps is easy and free in Franklin County, Massachusetts. Sharps disposal containers are available through the Franklin County Solid Waste District. Call the District to find out how you can participate in this free sharps disposal program.

Always store sharps containers out of the reach of children.

Mercury-containing products
Mercury is highly toxic to human health and the environment and dangerous to have around the home. Your old mercury thermometer and blood pressure devices can be properly disposed of through the District at no charge. The District has free, non-mercury thermometers available for exchange. (Limit one free thermometer per household.) The District also has a brochure about mercury and its dangers.

Help protect your health, your family, your community, and the environment by disposing of hazardous wastes safely.