Proper disposal of medications - do not flush!

DO NOT FLUSH unused medications and
DO NOT POUR them down a sink or drain unless otherwise instructed on the package.
Now you can bring unused medications to permanent medication-disposal kiosks throughout the state.

The problem: If you pour medications down the drain or flush them down the toilet, they go through your town's sewer system to a wastewater treatment facility and the treated wastewater is discharged to the rivers. Recent studies show that wastewater treatment facilities do not completely remove medications or their by-products. Even at low concentrations, pharmaceuticals in our streams are associated with reproductive abnormalities in fish and amphibians. (Read more about the problem of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment.) If you have your own septic system, medications flushed down the drain can have adverse effects on the function of your septic system.

Although the long-term solutions to the problem need to involve our entire drug manufacture and delivery system ("green pharmacy"), we limit our own contribution to the problem now. By disposing of unused medications properly we can keep them out of the rivers and away from children and pets.

What to do:
BRING unused medications to an approved disposal kiosk. Kiosks in our watershed include:

  • Acton Police Department, 371 Main Street, Acton
  • Billerica Police Department, 6 good Street, Billerica
  • Littleton Police Department, 500 Great Road, Littleton
  • Lowell Police Department, 50 Arcand Drive, Lowell
  • Marlborough Police Department, 355 Bolton Street, Marlborough
  • Subury Police Dept., 413 Boston Post Road, Sudbury
  • Wayland Public Safety, 38 Cochituate Road, Wayland

(Complete list of Massachusetts sites here.)

IF a disposal kiosk is not available, MassDEP recommends:"These Easy Steps for Safe Disposal"

  • Keep medications in their original containers. Leave drug names visible to help identify the contents if they are accidentally swallowed. Cross out other personal information on labels to make it unreadable.
  • Disguise the medications in their containers. For pills: add some water or soda to dissolve them.
    For liquids: add inedible material like cat litter, coffee grounds or dirt.
  • Close the lids and secure with tape.
  • Hide medication containers in the trash. DO NOT put them in your recycle bin!
  • DO NOT put drugs in the trash without first disguising them - scavengers may find and eat them.

Caveat: IF there is not a kiosk or take-back program available, the FDA still recommends flushing certain highly hazardous medications or medications subject to abuse. Click here to see the list of these drugs.

Additional information:
EPA work on the disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products

Green Pharmacy part 1

Green Pharmacy part 2