How To Dispose of Expired Medication and Empty Prescription Bottles

Written by Ally Streelman

NowRx Pharmacy

where can I dispose of expired medication?

Cleaning up the medicine cabinet is a chore most of us neglect throughout the year. However, when the time finally comes, many of us find ourselves wondering how to dispose of expired medications. While it may be tempting to just toss unused or expired contents, this can be dangerous – especially with pets around.

So what’s the best way to dispose of your expired medications?

Let’s take a look at some best practices for disposal and what you can do with the empty prescription bottles left behind.

How To Dispose of Expired Medications

There are several safe options for how to dispose of expired medications depending on where you are located. For example, some pharmacies offer drug take-back services. These will come either in the form of on-site collection bins or envelopes for mailing back unused medications. You can easily find a take-back service near you through the DEA’s diversion control website.

Some private companies will accept unused prescription medication, however there are often several restrictions. For example, they cannot be expired and in some cases may need to be in sealed, tamper-evident packaging.

Where Can I Dispose of Expired Medication

The best place to dispose of expired medications is at a drug take-back location. These are locations authorized by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to safely and securely gather and dispose of drugs. These locations are often located in the community like a local pharmacy, grocer, or hospital. To find a location near you, simply search via the DEA’s Diversion Control website.

If there isn’t a take-back location nearby, you could be able to just flush your medication. Just check out the FDA’s flush list to see if your medication is listed.

If you absolutely must dispose of your medication in the trash, make sure you do so as safely as possible. Put the medication in a childproof bag or sealed container and mix it with an unpalatable substance such as used coffee ground or dirt. This ensures that the medication is unattractive, even if it somehow makes it out of the trash and container.

Where To Donate Unused Prescription Medicines

There are a number of places to legally donate unused prescription medications depending on where you are located. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 27 states and Washington D.C. have operating drug repository programs. By collecting unused prescription drugs and redistributing them to qualifying individuals, these programs help increase medication access, especially to underserved populations.

These programs work with pharmacies and hospitals to collect and redistribute unused medicines. If you would like to donate your unused medicine, reach out to your local pharmacy or hospital to ask if they participate in a drug repository program. You can also donate medications via SIRUM, an organization that makes donations by mail quick and painless. 

Unfortunately, expired medications will not be eligible for these programs so if your medication is open or nearing expiration, follow the steps above to dispose of it properly.

What To Do With Empty Prescription Bottles

You have several choices of what to do with empty prescription bottles once you have finished or disposed of your medication. While choosing to throw the prescription bottle away is a common choice for many, a better option is often to recycle or find a different use for the container.

Are Prescription Bottles Recyclable

Depending on your city and the type of prescription bottle, prescription bottles are recyclable and an easy way to reduce waste. Standard prescription bottles are made from polypropylene, or #5 plastic. To discover if you can recycle your pill bottles in your bin, contact your local recycling facility and ask. However, if the answer is no, don’t worry because there are still plenty of other ways to recycle your prescription bottle.

How To Recycle Prescription Bottles

Deciding how to recycle your prescription bottles could be as easy as calling your local municipality to see if they can recycle polypropylene, or #5 plastic. Assuming they can’t, a few other options for reusing your prescription bottles can include:

  • Waterproof Container
  • Travel Sized Shampoo
  • Cotton Swab Container
  • Bobby Pin Storage
  • Quarter Holder

There is no limit to the number of uses for recycling your prescription bottle, however make sure you remove the label to avoid any confusion – especially if you are traveling.

If none of these suggestions work, you could also choose to donate your empty prescription bottles.

Where Can I Donate Empty Prescription Bottles

If recycling your empty prescription bottles doesn’t work, you may be wondering where to donate empty medication bottles? Some organizations such as Matthew 25 Ministries accept donations of empty plastic pill bottles for shipment of medical supplies and for recycling. This can help improve medical care by providing supplies to developing countries.

To learn more about the program and where to donate your empty prescription bottles, visit their website at

Expired Medication Disposal and Empty Prescription Bottles

Hopefully, this article helped you understand proper expired medication disposal and your options for empty prescription bottles. For more free health tips, resources, and news, subscribe to our weekly newsletter or if you have questions about pharmacy delivery send us an email at

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