How should you dispose of old medication?
Safe handling of medication is essential to ensure the safety of people, protect the environment, and prevent misuse or accidental ingestion. When medication is thrown away with your regular household waste, it will gradually pollute the soil, rivers and oceans. As a result, these compounds potentially harm aquatic ecosystems and can even enter the human food chain.
Expired medicine should be taken back to the pharmacy as they can dispose of it properly. Here are some guidelines on how to dispose of old medication:
Keep your medicine cabinet current
It’s a good idea to review your medicine cabinet every six months as this ensures you identify any expired or unused medications that can be returned to the pharmacy.
Keeping expired medications in your medicine cabinet can lead to confusion, as it becomes challenging to distinguish between current and outdated prescriptions. This confusion can result in accidental ingestion of expired and unsafe drugs. Reviewing your medicines is a practice that goes hand in hand with responsible healthcare and is often addressed in first aid and safety training programs, like those provided by specialists such as Tidal Training.
What to recycle
Many items are eligible to be returned to pharmacies, including creams, tablets, ointments, capsules and gels. All these items are recyclable, whether they’ve expired or not, and regardless of whether they’ve been opened. You don’t even need to go to a specific pharmacy as all pharmacies are involved in the unused and expired medicine recycling program.
Some items are ineligible for recycling with your pharmacy. Needles and syringes are considered infectious waste and should therefore be disposed of in a designated sharps bin that can be acquired from your GP. Your local council will then collect this bin when requested. See more on this here. Food supplements, dressings, contact lenses and thermometers are among some of the products also not covered by the pharmacy recycling scheme.
Separate the cardboard and paper pieces from your medications as these can be recycled in your regular household recycling or waste bin and then return any unused medicine to the pharmacy separately.