Medication Disposal

Safe Disposal of Medicine

Medicines are found in nearly every home.  These products include over-the-counter and prescription medications, such as solid pills and capsules, creams, liquids, and aerosols.  When used as directed, these products are generally safe for humans and the environment.  However, unused or unwanted medicine needs to be disposed of properly to help prevent accidental poisoning, substance abuse, and contamination of water resources.

Protect Your Family and the Environment

Medicines should always be used as directed and securely stored.  Improperly using or storing these items can lead to significant medical complications, including poisoning or death.  More information on the public health impacts of misusing pharmaceuticals is available from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Unused or unwanted medicines should not be flushed down the toilet or poured into the sink.  These methods create the potential for harmful chemicals to end up in our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. In fact, traces of some medicines have been found in water samples in 30 states, which have been connected to harmful impacts on localized aquatic ecosystems.

Medicine Collection Programs

The best way to dispose of unwanted medicine is through a collection program.  These programs include local collections offered by pharmacies and police departments, including several sites sponsored by the Cook County Sheriff's Office, mail-back programs, manufacturer-supported collections for specific medications and household hazardous waste collections.  Below is a list of items that are commonly accepted and prohibited at these publicly available collection events.  

Commonly Accepted Items

Commonly Prohibited Items

·         Most prescription drugs

·         Illegal drugs

·         Vitamins and dietary supplements

·         Sharps

·         Homeopathic remedies

·         Pet medications

·         Medications that include special safety protocols or registration with the drug manufacturer

Unwanted medicines should be delivered to the collection location in the original container, if possible.  Be sure to first blackout or remove any personal information from the container.  If you have any questions about disposal options for your specific medication, please contact your pharmacist. 

Illinois EPA Medication Takeback Program

Subject to available funding, the Illinois EPA provides disposal of medications collected from residents at partnering collection sites across the state. To apply to participate in the Medication Collection Program for the State Fiscal Year beginning July 1, 2018, submit an application to The application and instruction sheet are available at the links below.

Medication Takeback Program Application

Medication Takeback Program Application Instructions

Additional Information

If necessary, some medicines may be disposed of with other household garbage.  To ensure safe handling, those medicines should be mixed with coffee grounds, kitty litter, or saw dust in a sealed disposable container before placing with other household waste.