Pharmaceutical Waste: Disposing of unwanted medications

What is the problem?

Flushing prescriptions/over-the-counter medications down the drain can cause pollution in wastewater causing adverse affects on fish and other aquatic wildlife, and eventually causing unintentional human exposure to chemicals in medications.

Correct disposal methods:

1. Keep the medication in its original container - Scratch out name on prescription or cover with permanent marker.

2. Modify the medications to discourage consumption:

  • For solids - add a small amount of water to partially dissolve them.


  • For liquids - add enough table salt, flour, charcoal, or nontoxic powdered spice such as turmeric or mustard. Make a pungent, unsightly mixture that discourages anyone from eating it.


  • For blister packs - wrap the blister packages in multiple layers of duct or other opaque tape.

3. Seal and conceal - Tape the medication container shut with packing or duct tape. Place it inside a non-transparent bag or container such as empty yogurt or margarine tub.

4. Discard the container in your garbage can, not in a recycling bin.

Additionally, a prescription drug collection box is located at the Olmsted County Government Center inside the vestibule of the Adult Detention Center. This option for drop-off is available 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Acceptable Items in Government Center Collection Box:

  • Prescriptions
  • Prescription Patches
  • Prescription Medications
  • Prescription Ointments
  • Over-the-county medications
  • Vitamins
  • Samples
  • Medications for pets

Not Acceptable in Government Center Collection Box:

  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Thermometers
  • Inhalers
  • Needles (sharps)
  • Medication from businesses
  • Non-prescription ointments/lotions/liquids