How to Safely Dispose of Medication

To minimize accidental consumption or misuse, the FDA and EPA recommend removing medications from the home as soon as they're not needed. But please don't turn to the toilet to get rid of them. Flushing medication can cause harm to local water supplies.  

For the safe disposal of pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs, you'll want to use one of the secure drop-off boxes located citywide or take them to the Household Chemical and Computer Recycling Facility. 

Citywide Drop-Box Locations 

Through a partnership between the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Police Department, convenient pharmaceutical drop-boxes are now located over 20 Chicago Police Stations. 

Image © City of Chicago

Available 24/7, all types of prescription medications and over the counter medicines are accepted.  Look for the blue drop-box in the lobby. 

Tip:  It's a good security practice to cross off any identifying information on prescription medication bottles before dropping them off. 

Household Hazardous Waste 

Pharmaceuticals, as well as other toxic household chemicals, can also be dropped off at the City's Household Chemicals and Computer Recycling Facility (HCCRF) during normal business hours.  

As the name implies, the HCCRF also accepts hazardous household chemicals and old computer equipment. It's a great one-stop destination if you're looking to declutter. See the full list of items accepted at the HCCRF. 

Taking the 'L'?  The entrance to the HCCRF is only about a two-minute walk from the Division & North Branch stop.

LOCATION: 
Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility
1150 N. Branch Street  [map]

HOURS: 
Tuesdays (7:00 am to 12:00 pm)
Thursdays (2:00 pm to 7:00 pm)  
First Saturday of every month (8:00 am to 3:00 pm)

Last Resort: The Best Way to Dispose of Medication in the Trash

If you're unable to make it to a drop-off location or the HCCRF, as a last resort the FDA recommends the method below for disposing of medicines in the trash: 

  • Leave medication whole (don't open capsules or crush pills) and mix them with an inedible substance like kitty litter, dirt, or used coffee grounds. 
  • Place the medication in a sealed container like a plastic bag. 
  •  Toss the container in the trash bin
  • Cross out your medical information on the prescription container, and toss that in the trash too. 

The method above is designed to make the medication undesirable should it be discovered, while keeping the medication contained so that it won't leech out at the landfill. 

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