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Public Health Division
Public Health Division

Safe Disposal of Unwanted Medicines

By properly disposing of unwanted medicines you help to keep others safe by ensuring that these medicines cannot be used again or accidentally ingested and cause harm.  

How to Dispose of Unwanted MedicinesMedicine disposal
Pour all unwanted pills into a sealable plastic bag, but keep ointments and liquids in their original containers. Bring medications to a medicine take-back site. It is recommended that you call the site before bringing items for disposal. 

PLEASE NOTE: Certain controlled prescriptions and substances are NOT accepted by most disposal sites. Please contact a local law enforcement agency to find out where to dispose of controlled substances.

FDA: Safe Disposal of Medicines

Medication Disposal: Questions & Answers

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Events

Safe Disposal Drop-off Sites

What kinds of medicines can I take back to a disposal site?

YES: Items Accepted

NO: Items NOT Accepted

  • Prescription medications
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Medication samples
  • Vitamins & supplements
  • Medicated ointments/lotions
  • Liquid medications in glass or leakproof containers
  • Needles and sharps
  • Thermometers
  • Controlled prescriptions
  • IV bags
  • Bloody or infectious waste
  • Personal care products
  • Empty containers
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Aerosol cans
  • Syringes

Disposal by Flushing 
There are a few medications for which disposal by flushing is recommended.  For a list of those medications and information about the environmental impact of disposal by flushing, see the Federal Drug Administration website at these links: 

Medicines Recommended for Disposal by Flushing

Environmental Effects of Flushing Medications

Safe Disposal of Needles & “Sharps”Sharps container
Used needles and other sharps are dangerous to people and pets if not disposed of safely:  they can injure people and spread serious infections. Safe sharps disposal is important whether you are at home, at work, at school, traveling, or in other public places such as hotels, parks, and restaurants. Never place loose needles and other sharps (those that are not placed in a sharps disposal container) in household or public trash cans or recycling bins, and never flush them down the toilet. This puts trash and sewage workers, janitors, housekeepers, household members, and children at risk.

Safe Disposal of Needles and Sharps

Sharps Disposal Containers

Getting Rid of Used Sharps

Sharps Disposal Sites


Additional Resources & Information

California Department of Public Health: Medical Waste Management

Alameda County Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance


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Public Health Division, 1947 Center Street, 2nd Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704
Questions or comments? Email: Phone: (510) 981-5300
(510) 981-CITY/2489 or 311 from any landline in Berkeley
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