There are several safe ways to get rid of expired medicine. Most experts recommend contacting a pharmacy about taking the drugs there, because pharmacies usually have programs for recycling or disposing of medications. Other options include securely enclosing them in plastic and throwing them in the trash, taking them to a hazardous waste facility or donating them to organizations that accept expired medicine.
It once was recommended to flush old medicines down the toilet or dump them down the sink drain. This was considered safe within the home because the medications could no longer be taken accidentally or be ingested by children or pets. Drugs that have been flushed or washed down the drain, however, could get into the soil or water supply, creating an environmental hazard. This is no longer considered a good way to dispose of expired medicines.
Contact a Pharmacy
If you have expired medicine that you want to get rid of, the best thing to do is contact your local pharmacy first. Some pharmacies will take back expired medicine at any time, and others will hold periodic drives to collect it. Either way, the pharmacy might be able to take back your expired medication and dispose of it properly. If your pharmacy doesn't take back your old drugs, you can ask the pharmacist what to do with them. Another pharmacy in your area also might accept expired medicines.
Enclose in Plastic
Another option is to take any old pills and pulverize them, then return them to their child-safe container and place the container inside several ziplock plastic bags or another thick plastic container. They can then be thrown away with other trash. The plastic will not degrade quickly, which could prevent the medicine from contaminating the soil — at least for many years. With this method, however, leakage and contamination still is possible.
Expired medicines are considered to be hazardous waste, so they should be disposed as such. You can contact your local hazardous waste facility to whether it accepts expired drugs. If not, the facility likely will have a recommendation for what to do with them.
There also are organizations that accept medicine that has passed its expiration date and will donate the medicine to organizations in third-world countries. Some medicine might still be good long past its printed expiration date, although only qualified healthcare professionals should decide which expired medicines are still safe to take. An Internet search will provide you with the names of these organizations.