A prescription for proper disposal

Nearly 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug regularly, and more than half take two, according to the Mayo Clinic. That translates to a large amount of leftover pills and prescription bottles that eventually have to go somewhere. In the Kansas City area, there are many safe disposal options.

Lock ‘em up

When you’re putting household chemicals like wasp spray and weed killer in a locked cabinet out of the reach of children and pets, don’t forget to do the same with your prescription drugs. Medications are every bit as dangerous, and child safety caps can fail. Also, since many drugs like opioids are addictive, you don’t want them getting in the wrong hands.

The best way to dispose

The best way to dispose of most types of old, unused, unwanted, or expired medicines (both prescription and over the counter) is to drop them off at a drug takeback location or event as soon as possible. Many pharmacies and police stations offer a free public drop box, no questions asked. To find the nearest location, visit RecycleSpot.org and use “Prescriptions” as your search term.  

The next best way to dispose

If for some reason there are no drug takeback options available where you live, medications can be disposed in the trash. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Mix medicines (liquid or pills; do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unappealing substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds.
  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
  3. Throw the container in the trash.

Do not flush!

Never flush medicines down the toilet or put them down any drain in your house. Water treatment facilities cannot fully remove all medications from wastewater. Your medications can have a detrimental effect on the people, plants and animals that live downstream.

Be sharp about sharps

Medical sharps, such as needles, syringes, lancets and injection pens, are not recyclable. To protect sanitation workers or anyone who handles your trash, they should be put into a tightly closed, puncture-resistant container such as a detergent bottle. Or, you can search online for mail-back programs.

Donate empty prescription bottles

Most people think that prescription bottles should be recyclable since they’re plastic containers and often have the #5 resin code imprinted on the bottom. Unfortunately, they’re not recyclable in the Kansas City area because they are classified as “smalls” by the recycling industry. Smalls are any items 2” X 2” — about the size of a credit card — or smaller that do not make it through the automated recycling processes at material recovery facilities and thus end up in the trash. 

The following organizations accept prescription bottles for donation. Before donating them, make sure bottles are clean, and that all personal information has been removed. Always call before donating.