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Household Hazardous Waste

Proper Disposal of Residential-Generated Medications and Pharmaceuticals

The procedures below apply ONLY to medical wastes that are generated IN A PRIVATE HOME IN CALIFORNIA by the residents of that home. Officially, there are no California medical regulations governing home-generated medical waste. These options may help prevent the medical waste from being spilled during pickup, or being accidentally or intentionally misused.

Where to Dispose Home-generated Medications and Pharmaceuticals

Please do not put medications and pharmaceuticals down the drain or down the toilet as sewage treatment systems are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals and medications. These include any prescription or nonprescription substance intended to be swallowed, inhaled, injected, applied to the skin or eyes, or otherwise absorbed by the body.

To dispose of medications and pharmaceuticals in the trash, packaging suggestions include securing them in some sort of durable packaging or container to ensure that the refuse collector can safely bring the medications and pharmaceuticals to the landfill. Any nonbreakable packaging or container you use is acceptable. Secure the packaging, or the pry-off type lids on some pill containers with strong tape. To deter the misuse of the pharmaceuticals by others, residents may wish to either remove or obscure personal identification information from the label before placing the container in the trash.

There are no laws that forbid putting home generated medications and pharmaceuticals in the trash if the medications or pharmaceuticals would not be considered hazardous waste. Usually the pharmaceuticals in a home that are likely to be considered hazardous waste are those prescribed for chemotherapy. Chemotherapy Pharmaceuticals need to be returned to the clinic that dispensed them.

In limited cases, unused or expired pharmaceuticals can be returned to pharmacies for "take-back" programs. Ask at the pharmacy regarding the availability of this service.

A health care facility or health care professional visiting a private home are subject to the Medical Waste Management Act (MWMA). Health care facilities and health care professionals need to contact their local health departments for proper disposal information.