Proper Disposal of Household Pharmaceuticals

Household Pharmaceutical Waste and Safe Needle Disposal Guidance

      click here for brochure 

Safe Needle Disposal

This is guidance to households on the disposal of waste pharmaceuticals generated at home, including unwanted or unused prescription and non-prescription medications.  This does not address the requirements for doctor offices, medical clinics, veterinary clinics, hospitals or care facilities.

The old recommendation of flushing pharmaceuticals down the toilet is the least desirable alternative for the disposal of unwanted or unused medications. Wastewater treatment plants and septic systems are not designed to treat pharmaceutical waste. 

Recent research has demonstrated that pharmaceuticals exist in the environment as a result of improper disposal of unused medicines and because they are excreted by the person using the medicines.     

Don’t flush your waste medications!   





Permanent Prescription Drug Drop Locations:  

Operation Medicine Cabinet Montana has many locations where permanent drop boxes are located across the state. This link has a chart of the locations:

What cannot go in bins?

  • Used Sharps (hypodermic needles, syringes, auto injectors, infusion sets, connection needles/sets, and lancets)
  • Dietary Supplements, Vitamins
  • Business Waste (e.g., Company Representatives' Product Samples, Waste from Clinics, Doctors, Dentists, and Veterinary practices)
  • Mercury Thermostats
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Chemotherapy or cytotoxic medicines
  • Compressed Gas Cylinders or Aerosol Containers (e.g., asthma inhalers)

Mail Back:

Some pharmacies and other organizations offer postage-paid envelopes for a small fee, which you can use to mail medicines to a safe disposal program. Mail back systems accept controlled and non-controlled substances.

Household Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal Guidance brochure

If a drug take-back or collection program is not available:

- Take your prescription drugs out of original containers.

- Conceal or remove any personal information from the original medicine container, including the prescription number, by covering the label, using a black permanent marker or removing it.

-  Mix drugs with an undesirable substance, such as used cat litter or used coffee grounds.

-  Put mixture into a disposable container or plastic bag.

-  Place sealed contents in the trash.

Department of Environmental Quality's Solid Waste Program (406) 444-5300

Department of Justice's Operation Medicine Cabinet (406) 444-2469