Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Safe Medication Disposal for Households


Click on the image to zoom in on a larger map
  • Find a free collection site near you
  • Contact your municipality to see if they offer household pharmaceutical collections events in partnership with local law enforcement. Note: most municipal household hazardous waste collections do NOT accept pharmaceuticals.
  • Take advantage of National Drug Take-Back Day. Twice a year - April and October - the federal Drug Enforcement Agency's (DEA) holds a national take back day. Learn more about National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. (Leaves DEC website)
  • Visit your local pharmacy to purchase pre-addressed envelopes to mail unwanted medications for incineration.
  • As a last resort, follow these instructions for putting medications in the trash:
    • Mix medications (do not crush tablets or capsules) with water and then add salt, ashes, dirt, cat litter, coffee grounds, or another undesirable substance to avoid accidental or intentional misuse of drugs.
    • Do not conceal discarded drugs in food.
    • Place all medications in an outer container, such as sealable bag, box, or plastic tub to prevent discovery and removal from the trash. Seal the container with strong tape.
    • Dispose of drugs as close to your trash collection day as possible to avoid misuse and/or misdirection.

Handle Unwanted Medications with Care

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends handling medications with care. Some drugs (such as fentanyl patches) can cause harm, or even death, if used by someone other than the person for whom the medicine was prescribed.

To prevent accidental ingestion of these potentially dangerous medicines, dispose of them quickly through a medication take-back program or transfer them to a DEA-authorized collector.

If no other disposal options are available, some medicines may be flushed down the sink or toilet as soon as they are no longer needed. View the FDA's list of medicines that may be flushed (leaves DEC website).

Dispose of Sharps Safely

DEC strongly recommends that self-administered medications with attached needles, or "sharps," be disposed of at hospital-based collection programs. All hospitals in New York State (except for federal facilities) are required to collect sharps from households.

  • Medications given by injection with a needle may be disposed of in the trash
  • Syringes without attached needles may be disposed of in household trash as described above
  • Do NOT dispose of sharps in collection receptacles or in mail-back packages
  • Place syringes or IV's with an attached needle in a puncture-proof container sealed with tape, labeled as "sharps," and deposit the container in the garbage outside of the home