Real Estate Agent with Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 NRDS ID#641625055

The Silver Lining Chronicles - How to Safely Dispose of Unused Medication

Back in the day, if you had unwanted medication - perhaps something that had expired or that you didn't need to take anymore - you disposed of it by flushing it down the toilet.  For many years, this was the recommendation from health professionals and it's objective was to keep children and animals safe. It was also an effort to keep seniors from getting confused by the multiple pill bottles in their medicine cabinets and to keep everyone safe from the dangerous effects of certain medicines that can cause organ damage when they become old and turn toxic.  7/14/11 medications

A few years ago, the  Department of Environmental Conservation realized that this old advice was no longer a good idea. Medications find their way into our waters and cause all kinds of hazards for fish, wildlife and people. Instead, they've come up with new steps to throw away these prescription medicines safely.

The following bolded steps come directly from the DEC's website:

  • Treat medications (liquids and pills) by adding water and then salt, ashes, dirt, cat litter, coffee grounds, or another undesirable substance, to avoid accidental or intentional misuse of drugs. Do not conceal discarded drugs in food to prevent consumption by scavenging humans, pets or wildlife.
  • Hide all medications in an outer container, such as sealable bag, box or plastic tub to prevent discovery and removal from the trash. Seal the container with strong tape.
  • Dispose of drugs as close to your trash collection day as possible to avoid misuse and/or misdirection.

Not long ago, in conversation with a nurse, the topic of flushing as the proper disposal method for old medications came up in conversation. She was not aware that the above new guidelines were in place. It is for this reason that I wanted to get the word out.  An ordinary person is not likely to be aware of the newest recommendation if, to begin with, an active health worker is not.

Collection events are now held every year throughout New York State. I'm sure other states have their own environmental departments with similar programs. The DEC's website above will give you all the information you need to make an informed decision.  As an alternative, you can also send it to a licensed disposal facility through the use of a specially designed envelope sold in participating pharmacies - You'll need to check this web address to adhere to the regulations set forth by the company (and the government.)


Drugs courtesy of jepoirrier's photostream via's Creative Commons License.




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Jill Sackler, NYS Real Estate Broker Associate based on Long Island's South Shore

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©Jill Sackler 2010


Comments (16)

Adrian Willanger
206 909-7536 - Seattle, WA
Profit from my two decades of experience

Jill-and now I know what to do with the outdated unused medications and prescriptions. Thanks. 

Jul 14, 2011 08:25 AM
Ellen Caruso
Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty - Glen Head, NY

Jill, great idea and just in time...I need to clean out the medicine closet!

Jul 14, 2011 09:05 AM
Belinda Spillman
Aspen Lane Real Estate Colorful Colorado - Aurora, CO
Colorado Living!

Jill,  It is tricky now to dispose of these things.  When my father in law died last year, my sister in lw had to figure out what to do with all the letover drugs.  She took them to a clinic and they were able to use the ones in bubble wrap and unopened drugs.  They disposed of the rest for her.

Jul 14, 2011 09:44 AM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

Adrian- glad it was useful information. Thanks for stopping by.

Ellen - good timing, then. Looking forward to the book club tomorrow.

Belinda - You have firsthand experience. Taking them to a clinic was a good idea.

Jul 14, 2011 12:09 PM
Cindy Westfall
Premiere Property Group,LLC Portland Metro & Suburbs Oregon - Tualatin, OR
ABR,GRI Your Tualatin & Portland Metro Real Estate

Hi Jill, I still have some old pills in my cabinet because I knew I wasn't supposed to throw them in the toilet...but didn't want to just toss em in the garbage either. Thanks for this great and very informative post! I will add those coffee grinds and peels to them.

Jul 14, 2011 02:45 PM
Ron Marshall
Marshall Enterprises - Saint Michael, MN
Birdhouse Builder Extraordinaire

Jill, there were two or three drug collections within 60 miles of our home within the last two months.  They were wildly popular, and, I believe if the state ever starts working again, they might hold more of these.  But, with the state workers not being available, I doubt it will be for a while yet. 

Jul 14, 2011 03:07 PM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

Cindy - I didn't know about those coffee grinds either. It's a rather simple solution to the disposal problem,

Ron - You're always right on top of things. The fact that you said they were wildly popular is a great advertisement for them. What's going on with your state government?

Jul 14, 2011 11:50 PM
Janet Jones
Just Your Style Interiors, LLC - Kihei, HI
Home Staging, Interior Redesign Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

Hi Jill--this is great information.  Somehow I would think I should know this and I think I will write this up and give it to clients as guidelines during staging.  Thanks.

Jul 15, 2011 11:49 AM
Suzanne McLaughlin
Sabinske & Associates, Inc. (Albertville, St. Michael) - Saint Michael, MN
Sabinske & Associates, Realtor

Jill, I read your comment to Ron.  Our state government has been SHUT DOWN since June 30.  No game wardens, no parks, no roadside rest, we are out of Miller and Coors products, no birth certificates, no death goes on and on and on. 

Jul 16, 2011 11:54 AM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

Janet - The more people know about it the better.

Valerie - Sorry about your mom. It's a big job to clean out the residence.

Suzanne - OMG - That sounds pretty severe. I hope they're working hard to resolve this.

Jul 16, 2011 03:23 PM
Dawn A Fabiszak
Private Label Realty ( Denver metro area, Colorado - Aurora, CO
The Dawn of a New Real Estate Experience!

Jill ~ what an informative post.  I knew I wasn't supposed to flush old meds.  I had been just grinding the old pills up and throwing them in the trash with the rest of the waste.

Jul 31, 2011 08:11 AM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

Dawn - Then you were doing the right thing. Just throw in something unappetizing on top.

Jul 31, 2011 10:52 AM
Maria Gilda Racelis
Home Buyers Realty, LLC-Manchester, Bolton. Vernon,Ellington - Manchester, CT
Home Ownership is w/in Reach. We Make it Happen!

Hi Jill: Information like this needs to be dispersed-- know how to dispense properly. Thank you for sharing this. Not only does it instill environmental concsciousneed into the consumers and public but it also keep our loved ones away from harm.

Jun 05, 2012 03:23 AM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Really important Jill, and thank you for caring enough about this subject to let others know how to safely dispose of old or unwanted medication. Let's hope people are getting the drill...

Jul 18, 2012 12:04 AM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

Maria - It's not difficult once you know but too often, we just don't know how to throw things away.

Debb - Thanks for taking the time to read it.

Jul 18, 2012 02:52 AM