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This Fast Facts provides members with information to safely dispose of unwanted or expired prescription medications.


 Medicines play an important role in treating certain conditions and diseases, but they should be used as directed and properly disposed of when treatment ends. Cleaning out your medicine is a good idea for a number of reasons. A cabinet full of unused medications can increase the chance of taking the wrong one, having expired medicine or having medication end up in the wrong hands. Unused portions of these medicines must be disposed of properly to avoid harm to wildlife, pets and people.

But how should you “properly dispose” of unused or expired medications? In the past, we were told to flush unused drugs or put them in the trash. Both of these strategies have potential downsides. Flushed medications can pass largely untouched through sewage treatment plants. Meanwhile, medications in the garbage can come into contact with children or animals, and once in landfills, have the potential to leach into groundwater.

—What can you do to ensure safe drug disposal? —

 Typically medication disposal is labeled with specific instructions, so it important to read the labels on the bottle. If it is not labeled, here are some steps you can take to safely dispose of unwanted and expired medication:

  1. Ask if your pharmacist can take back medication. Many pharmacies participate in prescription drug disposal
  2. Investigate if there are nearby state or local disposal programs like those mentioned
  3. If you need to put your medications in the trash, follow these tips:
    • Keep the medications in the original childproof and watertight
    • Leave the label on, but remove all identifying information to protect
    • Add some water to pills and put some flour in liquids. You can also add material to the trash bag such as kitty litter, sawdust, coffee grounds or any material that mixes with the medication and makes it less appealing for pets and children to
    • Conceal the vials by putting them in empty plastic tubs or paper bags before throwing them out.

Above all, do not give medications to friends or family members. Doctors prescribe drugs based on a person’s specific symptoms and medical history. For more information about disposal, visit the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection webpage.

—Project Medicine Drop—

With the abuse of prescription drugs on the rise, New Jersey officials kicked off Project Medicine Drop to demonstrate how individuals can properly dispose of drugs. Led by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the program enables individuals to dispose of medications anonymously, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Prescription drop boxes are located within participating police departments. The drop boxes are indoors in a secure location within view of law enforcement officers. The police department will then take custody of the discarded drugs and dispose of them, according “to their normal procedures for the custody and destruction of controlled dangerous substances.”

—For More Information—

 New Jersey’s Project Medicine Drop by the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs

Use the map to select a location near you. For hours of availability and other information, contact the police department or call the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5846. They also have flyers and posters that can be distributed.


This is an online resource to help you find medication disposal programs at a local independent community pharmacy near you, as well as to ensure the safe and proper handling of your medications.


 This site contains an interactive map that allows you to easily find the prescription drug drop off location nearest to you.

How to Dispose of Unused Medicines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The FDA worked with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to develop the first consumer guidance for proper disposal of prescription drugs.

If you need additional information, please contact Chrissy Buteas at cbuteas@njbia.org or 609-858-9510.


Updated:  October 31, 2016

This information should not be construed as constituting specific legal advice. It is intended to provide general information about this subject and general compliance strategies. For specific legal advice, NJBIA strongly recommends members consult with their attorney.