How to Dispose of Prescription Drugs

Submitted by the Panorama Green Team – May 2020

The prescription medicines that benefit you, your family and pets also may harm others and the environment if improperly handled, stored and trashed. Prescription medications fit into a category defined as pharmaceutical waste and require special handling provided by regulated dangerous waste facilities that operate very differently from landfill and recycling operations. By properly disposing of these pharmaceutical wastes you contribute to reducing their damage to air, water, soils, wildlife and eco-systems in addition to accidental consumption by humans and pets.

The complex mixtures of chemicals, metals and other materials in prescribed medicines involve more than pills, ointments, sprays and injections because their packaging and application requirements include a variety of potentially toxic and hazardous materials that also can poison air and water and compromise recycling operations, landfills, and whole ecosystems. Any package or container still half full of its medication deserves proper recycling.

Another dimension to the pharmaceutical waste scene involves separate handling requirements for the category identified as controlled substances. Rules for recycling controlled substances such as opioids, marijuana, and other pain management, stimulant and depression treatments vary by jurisdictions.

Throwing medications and controlled substances in the trash or down the drain qualifies as absolute DO NOT DO choices. Fortunately, a variety of local disposal options make it easier to safely and ethically get rid of your expired and discontinued prescription medications. Knowing the Do and Do Not guidelines will help you plan and toss respectfully and responsibly. High priority directions for responsible disposal handling include:

  1. Do not flush down the toilet or sink.
  2. Do not throw away in your trash can.
  3. Do not add to collections of recycle materials.
  4. Do not bury in the ground.
  5. Do not discard into containers in public places.

Part of knowing the guidelines for proper disposal includes understanding different options for various jurisdictions such as retail businesses, professional organizations, governing entities, universities, hospitals and health care clinics. Your requirements for time, convenience, mobility, and helping hands/services also affect your successful efforts to recycle responsibly.

Panorama residents enjoy the nearby option of bringing no longer needed or wanted prescription medicines to Puget Pharmacy in Panorama Hall, 1751 Circle Lane SE, 360.456.5389. It’s open Monday through Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. You can also take your prescription medications plus controlled substances to the collection site in the lobby of the Lacey Police Department, 420 College Street SE, Lacey, WA 98503, – (360) 459-4333. The prescription disposal drop box location is available Monday – Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm excluding holidays.


For a comprehensive list of prescription medication disposal services, see

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